Those who follow primary elections closely realize that all candidates (irrespective of national polling or popularity . . . I’m looking at you Giuliani 2008 and Trump 2012!) require “a path to the nomination” with regards to performances in the early voting states. There are some old maxims like “Three tickets out of Iowa; Two tickets out of New Hampshire” or “whoever wins South Carolina wins the nomination” that usually hold true.
Interestingly Iowa and New Hampshire rarely produce the same winners, showing that the Granite State voters don’t seem to care one lick about who Iowa voters choose. Huckabee won Iowa last time, but was a DISTANT 3rd in NH at only 11% . . . three times less votes than 2nd place Romney received (32%). South Carolina voters, however, traditionally are more strongly swayed by the performances in preceding states, and, although they end up choosing the eventual winner almost without fail, SC polls prior to the IA & NH contests are not very good predictors of who will actually win SC. “Momentum” cannot be underestimated. Nevada is newer in the mix as an early state, and promises to get more press and ‘weight” for the winner this time around than it did last cycle.
Most have noticed the 2012 strategy for Romney is de-emphasizing Iowa and South Carolina while focusing on New Hampshire and Nevada. Iowa has a history of unpredictability (see 2008) and conventional wisdom holds that a Mormon governor from Massachusetts has his work cut out for him in South Carolina. However, conventional wisdom may be wrong.
On the heels of some solid polling for Mitt in Iowa, recent polling out of South Carolina is VERY good news for Romney and his supporters. Two polls came out yesterday (here and here) and are pretty darn consistent in showing that Romney is in a statistical tie for first place with Huckabee.
Mike Huckabee 20% Mitt Romney 18% Donald Trump 13% Sarah Palin 10% Newt Gingrich 9% (all others at 5% or below)
Mike Huckabee 17.8% Mitt Romney 16.1% Donald Trump 9.9% Sarah Palin 8.6% Newt Gingrich 8.1% Chris Christie 6.2% (all others at 3% or below)
Some key takeaways:
- The consistency between the polls is very solid (same top 5 in the same order and with nearly the same percentages)
- The candidates trying to break into the top tier are finding it difficult (Tim Pawlenty garnered just 2% and 1.7% in the polls, Mitch Daniels was even worse at 1% and 0.6%).
- One of the polls asked a key question: ”Regardless of who you currently support, who do you think the eventual 2012 Republican presidential nominee will be?”
Mitt Romney 21.4% Mike Huckabee 8.3% Donald Trump 7.3% Newt Gingrich 4.9% Sarah Palin 4.1% Michele Bachmann 1.0% Tim Pawlenty 1.0%
What this means is that over half of Huckabee’s supporters don’t think that he’ll be the eventual nominee, while people who voted for other candidates in the poll think that Romney will be the nominee. I’m inclined to agree!
And the endorsement picture may end up being very good for Romney in South Carolina. Gov. Nikki Haley (then a state legislator) and Sen. Jim DeMint endorsed Mitt last time. Gov. Haley was running 4th in the GOP primary when Mitt came in and endorsed her and donated heavily to her campaign. This jump started her campaign and the momentum never stopped. She’s playing coy publicly, but I’d be shocked if she doesn’t endorse Mitt in the primary. And even Sen. Lindsey Graham has been making very positive comments about Romney calling him”the frontrunner” and ”the most electable conservative in 2012.”