Beware of Polls a Year Before the Election

November 11th, 2011 by Lee Eldridge

Rudy GuilianiI had written a post in June advising that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions too early during the presidential primaries. In 2007-08, the lead among the primary candidates changed often. Now that we’re a year out, you’d think we’d be getting closer to knowing whom the GOP will choose as its candidate. But do you remember who was leading the polls in November of 2007? Me neither. So I did a little Googling. (Though you’ve probably already figured it out from the picture.)

As somebody who tracks polls, I’ve always liked how Real Clear Politics averages the results across multiple polls. As of November 11th, 2007, candidate Rudy Giuliani was leading the Republican field. And not just be a little. According to the RCP average, Giuliani held a 12.4 point lead with 29.4% of those polled favoring him for the GOP nomination. Here were the top six candidates four years ago this month:

Giuliani: 29.4%
Thompson: 17%
McCain: 15%
Romney: 12.4%
Huckabee: 9%
Paul: 3.8%

That’s five candidates with at least 9% of the vote. Thompson disappeared quickly leaving the GOP with four vying for the party’s nomination.

And if you look at the Democrats in November of 2007, Hillary had a huge lead over Obama. According to Gallup, Clinton held a 27 point lead with 48% favoring her for the party nomination compared to 21% for Obama. Here’s the Democratic field according to Gallup on November 16th, 2007:

Clinton: 48%
Obama: 21%
Edwards: 12%
Kucinich: 4%
Biden: 2%
Richardson: 2%

The moral of the story? There’s nothing new about what’s going on in the Republican party as they weed through their candidates. Primaries are a messy process. The newest CBS poll has a virtual three-way tie between Cain, Romney and Gingrich:

Cain: 18%
Romney: 15%
Gingrich: 15%
Perry: 8%
Paul: 5%
Bachmann: 4%
Santorum: 2%
Huntsman: 1%

Conclusion: Perry is still positioned well enough despite his many stumbles to make this a four horse race. It’s hard to imagine Paul, Bachmann, Santorum or Huntsman making a run at this point. And like 2008, I don’t think we’ll know for sure until Super Tuesday, which was the day that basically anointed John McCain as the GOP nominee four years ago.

Prediction: I still think it’s Romney’s race to lose. But he could sure lose it.

Click here to see the 2012 Primary Schedule.

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