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Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Rest of the Republicans

With all the attention on the top Republicans--How did the top contenders do in the debate? Is the Trump surge over? Will Fiorina make the top ten?--the other Republicans have been largely ignored, including by me. All the focus has been on the first 11 candidates on this list:

1. Trump--22.8 
2. Bush--12.0
3. Walker--9.4
4. Rubio--6.2
4. Carson--6.2
6. Huckabee--6.0
7. Cruz--5.8
8. Paul--4.4
9. Christie--3.6
10. Kasich--3.0
11. Fiorina--2.8
12. Perry--1.6
13. Santorum--1.4
14. Jindal--1.2
15. Graham--0.6
16/17. Gilmore and Pataki--not registering

But there are six other candidates in the race for nomination! Let's take a look at the sorry state of each of their campaigns before examining their plight with a wide angle lens.

12. Rick Perry
RCP National Average: 1.6
Last ten national polls (earliest first): 1, 3, 2, 2, 3, 2, 2, 2, 1, 1
State of the campaign: The Best of the Rest? That's not a terribly inspiring campaign slogan. He had a decent undercard debate--much better than just about anything he turned in four years ago--but with Fiorina sucking up all the debate's oxygen, little remained for Perry, and he has since slowly suffocated. The post-debate Rasmussen poll had him in a five-way tie for next to last at 1 point. In the early part of the summer, he was pulling down 4s and 5s, but that support has evaporated. Look at that hideous trend over the last six polls: 3, 2, 2, 2, 1, 1. Now we hear news that he's had to stop paying staffers in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, asking them to stay on as volunteers. The Best of the Rest is in trouble.

13. Rick Santorum
RCP Average: 1.4
Last ten polls (earliest first): 1, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 1
State of the campaign: Santorum follows a similar trajectory to Perry's. Both polled better earlier in 2015, and both campaigns have seemed to peter out. Perhaps it's because America is getting sick of them after their failed 2012 runs. Santorum can't get anything going these days, even after the debate, which was a medium that helped him compete with Romney in the early weeks of 2012. His Iowa numbers have also collapsed. That's a terrible sign considering that last time around he won the state; clearly Iowa knows him as a candidate, but it is still writing him off. As spring gave way to summer, he polled at 6s and 4s there. Since then, however, he hit just 3, 0, 3 before the debate, then 2, 1, and 1 after it. Uh oh.

14. Bobby Jindal
RCP Average: 1.2
Last ten polls (earliest first): 1, 2, 2, 2, 1, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1
State of the campaign: A YouGov survey actually found he did quite well in the early debate, second only to Fiorina.
Unfortunately, that hasn't translated to any more support for the Louisiana governor. Even though we've only had one post-debate national poll, the fact that he yet again scored a "1" is not a good sign. Worst yet, his Iowa support actually took a hit. It's a state where his evangelical ultra-conservatism should be playing very well. In fact, in the last pre-debate Iowa poll, he hit 7, good enough for fourth place. In the three Iowa polls since the debate, however, it was down to 2, 1, and 2. Wrong direction.

15. Lindsey Graham
RCP Average: 10.6
Last ten polls (earliest first): 0, 1, 1, 1, 0, 0, 1, 1, 0, 1
State of the campaign: Look at that YouGov chart again. Find Graham's performance. At the time, I thought he might be putting viewers to sleep. In retrospect, that would have been better. At least he might have escaped with more neutral evaluations. He hasn't been able to improve on the binary code that is his national polling. His only saving grace for most of this campaign was strong polling in his home state of South Carolina, which holds the third contest of the Republican Primary, but he's even taken a hit there. While in winter and spring he was consistently polling double digits at the top of field, the last two polls show him at 5 and 7 and middle of the pack. In his own state! I expect him to drop out before that primary and endorse whomever he thinks is most hawkish--probably Rubio.

T16. James Gilmore
RCP Average: --
Last ten polls (earliest first): Doesn't register
State of the campaign: I'm not even going to bother. I'm still too mad at him.

T16. George Pataki
RCP Average: --
Last ten polls (earliest first): Doesn't register
State of the campaign: Nothing has changed since my write-up of Pataki as the least likely nominee of the party. He's the only pro-choice candidate in the campaign, so his chances of winning the Republican nomination are as remote as can be.

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You might be wondering why these candidates stay in the race despite such an utter lack of support. There are two main reasons:

1) Did you see what Carly Fiorina was able to pull off? Before that early debate, she was polling worse than Perry, about the same as Santorum and Jindal, and just a bit better than Graham. Her RCP Average was a 1.3 before the debate. Her last eight polls read: 1, 1, 1, 0, 0, 2, 1, 2. Her situation was similar to everyone's I just listed. But then, after a knockout debate performance, she has since skyrocketed across the national, Iowa, and New Hampshire polls. In retrospect, being in that earlier, smaller debate was the best thing for her. She would have gotten less attention and airtime in the main debate. Being among the seven dwarves helped her standout, and it was also shoddier competition. Now, every candidate thinks they can be the Fiorina of a remaining undercard debate.

2) Rick Santorum four years ago. In the last poll of 2011, just over two weeks before the Iowa caucuses, he was polling at only 3 or 4 in every national poll. But by canvasing Iowa like a mad man, he became the only candidate to visit all 99 of Iowa's counties, and he came out of nowhere to fall just a few votes short of overwhelming favorite Mitt Romney. Two weeks later, it was determined that Santorum actually won the caucuses, though it was far too late for the "Iowa bump." Just like every candidate thinks they can pull off a Fiorina-like debate performance, so, too, do they think they can do what Santorum did in Iowa or New Hampshire.

These two factors give every campaign hope that even if they run a shoestring budget, free media and the possibility of a well-timed surge can make them viable candidates. As a result, we truck forward with this massive field.

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