>[Update II – McCain Beats Romney in Florida GOP Race]
It is widely expected that Rudy Giuliani will drop out of the race after a 3rd or 4th place finish in Florida tonight. The question is: who will the Rudy voters support? Many assume that the Rudy voters would naturally be most comfortable with John McCain. Jonathan Martin of Politico.com stated earlier today,
“Also, what is the impact of the Huck and Rudy fade? The CW [conventional wisdom] is that Huck’s folks bleed to Mitt and Rudy’s to McCain, but it may not be that simple. Key here may be what the Cubans do in South Florida. Rudy had worked this constituency pretty hard, but those that didn’t vote early already may be up for grabs.”
Martin was talking about FL but this seems to be the prevailing opinion nationally as well. Rudy’s people will go to McCain. But the conventional wisdom could be wrong on this one.
Rasmussen Reports released numbers today that indicate that Rudy’s voters may actually be more likely to jump to Romney. How so? Information from Rasmussen’s daily Presidential Tracking Poll indicates that “63% of Giuliani voters nationwide are politically conservative and 37% are not. Fifty-three percent (53%) of McCain supporters are conservative, 47% are not. Romney’s support is more solidly conservative—84% of his voters describe themselves in this way.” The assumption that Rudy’s people will jump to McCain seems to rest more on a comparison of the candidates than the voters who support them.
The Rasmussen article goes on to state: “Among Giuliani supporters, 82% have a favorable opinion of Romney. Just 61% have a favorable opinion of McCain.” When you look at the actual voters who support the candidates, it seems likely that more Rudy supporters will switch to Romney than McCain.
That all changes if McCain wins tonight. If John McCain wins Florida (he is ahead by 1 percentage point with 29% of precincts reporting), expect voters to continue to jump on the McCain bandwagon including many Rudy supporters. The media has already anointed McCain as the front-runner with their horse race coverage and if he wins FL that perception will be cemented.
There is a lot on the line for both Romney and McCain tonight. If McCain wins, expect voters to get behind the front-runner. But if Romney can pull off the win, he could enjoy a double victory if conservative Rudy supporters switch their allegiance to him.
And as we approach Super Tuesday, don’t forget about ol’ Mike Huckabee who is showing strength in the southern states.