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Barone On The GOP Big Three

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Michael Barone sorts through the numbers:

The Iowa and New Hampshire polls from December through March (though there have been none for Iowa in March yet) show a somewhat different picture.

Polls Giuliani McCain Romney Gingrich Others, undecided
Iowa 6 26 22.5 8 13 30.5
New Hampshire 8 27 28 16 29

Giuliani’s lead over McCain in Iowa is much less than nationally, which is probably a reflection of the cultural conservatism of Iowa Republican caucusgoers (although keep in mind that it is difficult to get a sample that is representative of the very small segment of the Iowa electorate that attends the caucuses). Nonetheless, Giuliani at this point seems capable of a credible enough showing to keep him very much in contention for the big state primaries February 5 (which now will definitely include California). McCain, too, has Iowa numbers that would keep him credible for later contests. New Hampshire, where McCain won a smashing victory in 2000, still shows him with a statistically insignificant lead over Giuliani; Romney, from next-door Massachusetts, does significantly better than in Iowa. Both of these candidates thus seem to be well positioned for the South Carolina primary and the February 5 contests. Romney needs to move up in New Hampshire to make himself credible for those contests. McCain needs to draw registered independents into the Republican primary; here his biggest competitor may be Barack Obama.

In yesterday’s interview, Mitt Romney speculated that Florida might leap ahead in the primary queue, which would shake the entire scenario:

HH: Now tell me about the reception in Florida, though. You’ve picked up the owner of the Panthers down there, and the owner of the Dolphins, so you’ve got the professional sports franchises locked up.

MR: Oh, I’ve got an extraordinary group of supporters in Miami, and across Florida. And Al Cardenas, who was the former chairman of the party there, and is himself a Cuban-American descendent, is a key member of my team as my co-chairman in Florida. So I’ve got an extraordinary group. I’ve got three former speakers of the House, the former Lt. Governor, Tony Jennings, Jeb Bush’s chief of staff, former chief of staff, and his former head of fundraising, Dr. Zachariah, and a whole list of folks. My organization in Florida probably is as strong as it is anywhere in the country.

HH: Do you expect that Florida will join California and Michigan in voting on February 5th, Governor Romney?

MR: I think there’s actually a chance, Hugh, that Florida will jump a couple or three days ahead of the rest of the country, and that Florida will tie itself to the New Hampshire primary, and as a result, will be a few days before California and New York, New Jersey, and the rest of the early primary states.

HH: Oh, that’s fast. I had not read that. Well, that would change the dynamic tremendously.

MR: Yeah, one of the reasons it’s so important to me is that we think it could be a super early primary.

Speculation on the Florida date here.  Latest developments here.

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