Giuliani Solidifies Lead in Republican Nomination Poll

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Clinton still leads among Democrats

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Rudy Giuliani is cementing himself as the early front-runner for the 2008 Republican nomination, while Hillary Rodham Clinton maintains that status among Democrats. This is according to the latest USA Today/Gallup presidential nomination preference poll of rank-and-file Republicans and Democrats. Giuliani's emergence is notable because the early Republican front-runner has won that party's nomination in each election since 1972. On the other hand, it has been rare for the early Democratic front-runner to lead throughout the nomination phase.

Further down the line of candidates, Al Gore appears to be picking up some steam among Democrats following his high-profile appearance at this year's Oscars. Gore maintains he does not plan to run, and although he has achieved his best showing to date in Gallup's 2008 election polling, his absence from the race would likely not change the complexion of the Democratic contest. 

Republican Race

According to the March 2-4 poll, 44% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they prefer Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, to be the party's 2008 presidential nominee. Arizona Sen. John McCain is second with 20%. At the beginning of the year, the two were statistically tied, but Giuliani has picked up support in each of the last two months, while McCain's support has declined, leaving Giuliani the clear front-runner. 

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (9%) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (8%) are the only other Republicans to register more than minimal support at this time. 

Giuliani's currently strong positioning is underscored by 64% of Republicans naming him as their first or second choice for the nomination, the only candidate above the majority level on this combined basis. McCain is the first or second choice of 42% of Republicans, while Gingrich (21%) and Romney (14%) are the only others to break into double digits.

Republicans' Preferences for Party Presidential Nominee in 2008
March 2-4 USA Today/Gallup Poll

First Choice

First or
Second Choice

%

%

Rudy Giuliani

44

64

John McCain

20

42

Newt Gingrich

9

21

Mitt Romney

8

14

Tommy Thompson

2

4

George Pataki

1

5

Sam Brownback

1

2

Tom Tancredo

1

2

Duncan Hunter

1

1

Mike Huckabee

*

3

Jim Gilmore

*

1

Chuck Hagel

*

1

 

 

Other

2

3

None

3

1

All/Any

*

--

No opinion

8

10

Percentages on first or second choice add to more than 100% due to multiple responses.

Giuliani also bests McCain by a healthy margin -- 58% to 34% -- when Republicans are asked whom they would prefer if the choice were between just those two candidates. The current 24-point lead for Giuliani improves upon his 18-point advantage in February and 8-point edge in January.

History is now becoming an ally for Giuliani. Since 1972, when the primaries and caucuses began to determine the presidential nominees, the early Republican front-runner in Gallup's preference polls has won the nomination each time. 

What's more, the Republican front-runner has rarely been seriously challenged at any point during the nomination phase of the campaign, at least according to the historical trial heat data. Only in 1976 and 1980 did the early front-runner not lead in Gallup's national trial heat polls throughout the nomination campaign, and in those two elections the front-runner never actually trailed, but briefly fell into statistical dead heats with one of their challengers. 

Specifically, Ronald Reagan tied Gerald Ford at a couple points during the 1976 campaign, even holding a slight (but not significant) advantage after officially entering the race in late 1975. Reagan was the front-runner in 1980 and led until he was upset by George H. W. Bush in the Iowa caucuses, propelling Bush into a tie with Reagan in a late January poll of national Republicans' nomination preferences. Reagan regained a lead on this measure in February after his New Hampshire primary win and never relinquished it. 

Democratic Race

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, outranking her closest pursuer, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, by a 36% to 22% margin. Clinton has held a statistically significant lead each time Gallup has polled Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents on their preferences for the party's 2008 presidential nomination.  

The latest poll shows 18% of Democrats choosing former Vice President Gore, just four points behind Obama. That is Gore's best showing to date and is double the support he had in November 2006 following the midterm elections -- the unofficial start of the 2008 presidential campaign. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards is preferred by 9% of Democrats, after being in double digits in the previous two polls. All of the other Democratic candidates are at 3% or below.

Gore has maintained he has no plans to seek the presidency in 2008, though some have begun "Draft Gore" movements to encourage just that. Should Gore decline to run, the complexion of the race would likely not change much, even though nearly one in five Democrats support him. When Democrats' preferences are re-figured to remove Gore (substituting Gore voters' second choice), Clinton's 36% to 22% lead over Obama improves only slightly to 44% to 27%, with no other Democrat picking up appreciable support.

Like Giuliani, Clinton is the only Democratic candidate who rates as the first or second choice among a majority of Democrats (59%). Obama (43%), Gore (34%), and Edwards (21%) are among the top two picks for at least one in five Democrats.  

Democrats' Preferences for Party Presidential Nominee in 2008
March 2-4 USA Today/Gallup Poll

First Choice

First Choice
(Without Gore)

First or
Second Choice

%

%

%

Hillary Rodham Clinton

36

44

59

Barack Obama

22

27

43

Al Gore

18

--

34

John Edwards

9

10

21

Joe Biden

3

3

4

Wesley Clark

2

3

3

Bill Richardson

1

2

4

Mike Gravel

1

1

1

Christopher Dodd

*

*

1

Al Sharpton

*

1

2

Dennis Kucinich

--

*

1

 

 

 

Other

1

2

3

None

3

3

3

All/Any

*

*

1

No opinion

4

5

7

Percentages on first or second choice add to more than 100% due to multiple responses.

Clinton also continues to lead Obama by a wide 56% to 36% margin when the two are matched up against each other in a head-to-head contest. That 20-point advantage is slightly less than her 29-point advantage (62% to 33%) in last month's poll. 

Historically, the early Democratic front-runner has not enjoyed the same smooth path to the nomination the Republican front-runner has. Gore (in 2000) is the only nominee in the post-1972 era to be the wire-to-wire leader in a Democratic campaign. Walter Mondale nearly accomplished the feat in the 1984 contest, never trailing but being tied with Gary Hart in March and early April of that year.

There are a variety of explanations for why the early Democratic leaders have not succeeded over the years. For example, in 1976 (Ted Kennedy) and 1992 (Mario Cuomo), the early front-runner in Gallup preference polls declined to run for president. In 1972 and 2004, there was no clear front-runner at the outset of the campaign with several candidates closely matched at the top of the polls. And in 1980 (Kennedy) and 1988 (Hart), the early leaders stumbled during the campaign and were defeated for the nomination. 

Because Clinton is very likely to enter the race officially -- she has already established an exploratory committee -- it would seem that her ability to avoid a major campaign stumble will likely determine whether she matches the Gore/Mondale pattern of success or repeats the Kennedy/Hart pattern of failure in seeking to become the Democratic nominee. 

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,010 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted March 2-4, 2007. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ¬Ī3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For results based on the sample of 482 Democrats and Democratic leaners, the maximum margin of sampling error is ¬Ī5 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 424 Republicans and Republican leaners, the maximum margin of sampling error is ¬Ī5 percentage points.

9. (Asked of Republicans and independents who lean to the Republican Party) Next, I'm going to read a list of people who may be running in the Republican primary for president in the next election. After I read all the names, please tell me which of those candidates you would be most likely to support for the Republican nomination for President in the year 2008, or if you would support someone else.

[ROTATED: Kansas Senator, Sam Brownback; Former Virginia Governor, Jim Gilmore; Former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich; Former New York City Mayor, Rudy Giuliani; Nebraska Senator, Chuck Hagel; Former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee; California Congressman, Duncan Hunter; Arizona Senator, John McCain; Former New York Governor, George Pataki; Former Massachusetts Governor, MittRomney; Colorado Congressman, Tom Tancredo; Former Wisconsin Governor, Tommy Thompson]

BASED ON 424 REPUBLICANS AND REPUBLICAN LEANERS

           

2007
Mar 2-4

2007
Feb 9-11

2007
Jan 12-14

2006
Dec 11-14

2006
Nov 9-12

%

%

%

%

%

Rudy Giuliani

44

40

31

28

28

John McCain

20

24

27

28

26

Newt Gingrich

9

9

10

8

7

Mitt Romney

8

5

7

4

5

Tommy Thompson

2

2

2

2

N/A

George Pataki

1

1

3

1

1

Tom Tancredo

1

1

N/A

N/A

N/A

Duncan Hunter

1

1

*

1

*

Sam Brownback

1

3

1

2

1

Mike Huckabee

*

2

1

2

1

Jim Gilmore

*

2

2

N/A

N/A

Chuck Hagel

*

1

1

1

1

Condoleezza Rice ^

*

*

1

12

13

George Allen

N/A

N/A

N/A

2

2

Bill Frist

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

4

 

 

 

 

 

Other

2

1

2

2

2

None

3

2

3

3

3

All/any

*

--

--

--

--

No opinion

8

7

10

7

7

 

 

 

 

 

^Rice responses in 2007 polls were volunteered; she was included in the list of candidates in 2006 polls.

N/A Not asked

10. (Asked of Republicans and independents who lean to the Republican Party who named a candidate they support for the Republican nomination in 2008) Who would be your second choice? 

COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.9-10): FIRST AND SECOND CHOICES

BASED ON 424 REPUBLICANS AND REPUBLICAN LEANERS

2007
Mar 2-4

2007
Feb 9-11

%

%

Rudy Giuliani

64

62

John McCain

42

47

Newt Gingrich

21

18

Mitt Romney

14

11

George Pataki

5

4

Tommy Thompson

4

3

Mike Huckabee

3

3

Sam Brownback

2

4

Tom Tancredo

2

2

Jim Gilmore

1

2

Chuck Hagel

1

1

Duncan Hunter

1

4

 

 

Other

3

5

None

1

3

All/any

--

--

No opinion

10

9

Percentages add to more than 100% due to multiple responses.

11. (Asked of Republicans and independents who lean to the Republican Party) S uppose the choice for the Republican presidential nomination narrows down to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani or Arizona Senator John McCain .¬† Which one would you prefer the Republican Party nominate for president ‚Äď [ROTATED: Rudy Giuliani (or) John McCain]?

BASED ON 424 REPUBLICANS AND REPUBLICAN LEANERS

Giuliani

McCain

No opinion

%

%

%

2007 Mar 2-4

58

34

8

 

 

 

2007 Feb 9-11

57

39

4

2007 Jan 5-7

50

42

8

12. (Asked of Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party) Next, I'm going to read a list of people who may be running in the Democratic primary for president in the next election.  After I read all the names, please tell me which of those candidates you would be most likely to support for the Democratic nomination for President in the year 2008, or if you would support someone else.

[ROTATED: Delaware Senator, Joe Biden; Retired General, Wesley Clark; New York Senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton; Connecticut Senator, Christopher Dodd; Former North Carolina Senator, John Edwards; Former Vice President, Al Gore; Former Alaska Senator, Mike Gravel; Ohio Congressman, Dennis Kucinich; Illinois Senator, Barack Obama; New Mexico Governor, Bill Richardson; The Reverend, Al Sharpton]

BASED ON 482 DEMOCRATS AND DEMOCRATIC LEANERS

2007
Mar 2-4

2007
Feb 9-11

2007
Jan 12-14

2006
Dec 11-14

2006
Nov 9-12

%

%

%

%

%

Hillary Rodham Clinton

36

40

29

33

31

Barack Obama

22

21

18

20

19

Al Gore

18

14

11

12

9

John Edwards

9

13

13

8

10

Joe Biden

3

1

5

3

4

Wesley Clark

2

1

2

2

3

Bill Richardson

1

4

3

2

2

Mike Gravel

1

*

N/A

N/A

N/A

Christopher Dodd

*

1

1

1

1

Al Sharpton

*

--

1

N/A

N/A

Dennis Kucinich

--

*

*

*

N/A

Tom Vilsack

N/A

*

*

1

1

John Kerry

N/A

N/A

8

6

7

Evan Bayh

N/A

N/A

N/A

1

2

Russ Feingold

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

1

Tom Daschle

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

1

 

 

 

 

 

Other

1

*

2

2

2

None

3

1

2

3

1

All/any

*

--

*

1

*

No opinion

4

3

4

5

6

 

 

 

 

 

N/A Not asked

            Recent Trend Without Al Gore:

2007
Mar 2-4

2007
Feb 9-11

%

%

Hillary Rodham Clinton

44

48

Barack Obama

27

23

John Edwards

10

14

Joe Biden

3

2

Wesley Clark

3

1

Bill Richardson

2

5

Mike Gravel

1

*

Al Sharpton

1

--

Christopher Dodd

*

1

Dennis Kucinich

*

*

Tom Vilsack

N/A

*

 

 

Other

2

1

None

3

1

All/any

*

--

No opinion

5

4

 

N/A Not asked.

13. (Asked of Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party who named a candidate they support for the Democratic nomination in 2008) Who would be your second choice? 

COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.12-13): FIRST AND SECOND CHOICES

BASED ON 482 DEMOCRATS AND DEMOCRATIC LEANERS

2007
Mar 2-4

2007
Feb 9-11

%

%

Hillary Rodham Clinton

59

67

Barack Obama

43

42

Al Gore

34

26

John Edwards

21

26

Joe Biden

4

5

Bill Richardson

4

7

Wesley Clark

3

3

Al Sharpton

2

1

Mike Gravel

1

1

Christopher Dodd

1

2

Dennis Kucinich

1

1

Tom Vilsack

N/A

1

 

 

Other

3

3

None

3

3

All/any

1

--

No opinion

7

4

Percentages add to more than 100% due to multiple responses.

14. (Asked of Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party) Suppose the choice for the Democratic presidential nomination narrows down to Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.  Which one would you prefer the Democratic Party nominate for president -- [ROTATED: Hillary Rodham Clinton (or) Barack Obama]?

BASED ON 482 DEMOCRATS AND DEMOCRATIC LEANERS

Clinton

Obama

No opinion

%

%

%

2007 Mar 2-4

56

36

8

 

 

 

2007 Feb 9-11

62

33

5

2007 Jan 12-14

53

39

8

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