If you’ve been following the polls for SC, you know how confusing that race has become. However, let’s go to the geniuses at Pollster.com for a look at what they consider the “endgame:”
For McCain, there is little dispute that he has surged since early December when he was in the low-teens to somewhere in the mid-to-upper 20s today. The sensitive estimator thinks the rate of climb since Iowa has been more rapid that does the blue estimator, but again both put his support between 26.9% and 29.3%.
The “Sensitive estimator” tracks the polls and through a formula, supplies a value based on the numbers. (There is a “Standard Tracking” line that works like the RCP averages). The sensitive estimator reflects a bounce for Huckabee out of Iowa that has ebbed slightly while McCain’s numbers took off in December and have kept climbing.
As for the others:
One big question in South Carolina is whether conservative criticism of both Huckabee and McCain is having any effect. If Thompson is benefiting from that, his polls only modestly show it. The sensitive estimate suggests a rise from about 10% to about 14%, but there is no polling evidence for a surge that would allow him to compete for first place.
Finally, Romney’s Michigan win seemed to help him in Nevada (based only on 3 polls, I should add) but there is no evidence of a bounce in South Carolina. After spending Wednesday and part of Thursday in the state, Romney appeared to concede the race and moved on the Nevada to campaign, where his chances look better. The Romney trends are also in complete agreement: No substantial trend, and both agree on 16%.
Based solely on the polling then (and this is not the best predictor of what is going to happen) it appears that there is some separation between McCain/Huckabee and Romney/Thompson with the former group in the mid to high 20’s and the latter in the mid-teens.
But for a variety of reasons, all we can do is use this data as a starting point. As many as 1 in 5 Republican voters are undecided as of this weekend with another third who may switch their votes.
Pollster.com points out that those undecideds in Iowa and Michigan broke decisively for the eventual winner which is why I think McCain will win going away. There is also the matter of Huckabee whose late gaffes regarding the confederate flag and some comments about the Constitution and religion may have hurt him slightly.
However, the Huckster probably has enough juice to hold off Thompson for second place.
And Fred? I think he surges past Mitt but comes up short, still finishing relatively strong.
SOUTH CAROLINA PREDICTIONS
1. McCain (29-33%)
2. Huckabee (19-23%)
3. Thompson (15-19%)
4. Romney (13-17%)
6. Giuliani (5-9%)
7. Paul (5-9%)
I think there is a chance a sizable number of undecideds will break for Fred rather than Huckabee or Romney. That may be enough to push Fred into second place but it is a long shot – say 10-1.
No polls out really reflect what has been happening the last 48 hours of the race so all of this might be totally off. But I’m not paid to be right, I’m paid to give it my best shot. And there you have it.
As for Nevada, the Republican race appears pretty straightforward. The Pollster.com guys point out there really haven’t been enough polls to draw any conclusions in which one could feel confident. I would agree except that despite McCain’s popularity in the state, that doesn’t necessarily translate into Caucus goers. We have the same situation we had in Iowa. Romney’s got a great organization in place and has visited the state several times – including the last two days. McCain has some enthusiasm and not much else.
Unlike Iowa where Huckabee had a network of churches and Fair Tax enthusiasts to get his people to the Caucuses, McCain has virtually nothing. So give this one to Mitt going away:
NEVADA CAUCUSES (GOP)
1. Romnney 31%
2. McCain 22%
3. Thompson 15%
4. Huckabee 13%
5. Giuliani 11%
6. Paul 6%
The Democratic race is a true muddle. Hillary probably hurt herself by suing to keep shift workers from caucusing. Obama probably stepped in it with his comments on Reagan. And like the Republicans, there just haven’t been enough polls to determine trends.
Some in the Netroots are reporting that there appears to be a late Obama surge. Take that with a grain of salt and a dose of wishful thinking. I think the race has been pretty static with Hillary holding a slight lead and Obama well within striking distance. Anything could happen and probably will (except an Edwards win).
I have no confidence at all in this prediction:
NEVADA DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS
1. Hillary Clinton 42%
2. Barack Obama 39%
3. John Edwards 14%
4. Dennis Kucinich 4%
Neither candidate helped or hurt much by the results, regardless of how it goes.
I really, really wish that there was evidence that Fred Thompson would do better than I’m predicting but I can’t find any. The latest ARG poll has Fred moving from 13% to 21% which I think is about right – an 8 point surge. But I don’t think he was starting at 13% – he was in single digits in late December and early January. So for Fred, a nice try but he will come up short.
Will he go on? I’m sure he will. Thanks to a pick up in fundraising, Fred can continue until after Super Tuesday when I’m sure all but the top two candidates – probably McCain and Romney – will reassess their chances.
Byron York writes what is almost an obituary for Thompson:
The RealClearPolitics average of polls in South Carolina has Thompson virtually tied with Mitt Romney for third place, well behind John McCain and Mike Huckabee. Most observers view this state as Thompsonâ€™s last stand, although his aides say simply that they donâ€™t know whatâ€™s coming next. If he does leave the race, there will be lots of suggestions that he didnâ€™t really want to run, that he didnâ€™t have the taste for the frenetic campaigning that wins presidential primaries. No one beyond Thompson himself knows the answer to the first question, but thereâ€™s no doubt the latter is true; throughout the campaign, Thompson showed great impatience with some of the ridiculous demands presidential campaigns place on candidates. But on those occasions when he put himself into it fully, as he did at the Embassy Suites on Friday, Thompson left supporters wanting more â€” and wishing they had seen this months ago.
Thompson always seems most animated and most passionate when he talks of saving the Reagan coalition and battling for the “heart and soul” of the Republican party. These themes seem to hit him at a gut level and I wish he had drawn his campaign around them rather than his early emphasis on the danger to the country because of the growing menace of out of control entitlement programs and deficits.
But no use going back. The campaign is now what it is and nothing can change that. The candidate has found his voice and his themes. But it may not be enough.
UPDATE II: INTRADE
The markets are swinging decisively to Huckabee today. Not quite sure what to make of that except that if true, Fred drops considerably – down to 4th and the low teens for his support. That would finish his candidacy.
It’s AP calling it for Mitt in Nevada. CNN will wait for raw numbers (do they see something screwy in the entrance polls?)
Dem race still to close to call.
ARG called the Dem primary in New Hampshire in their last poll: Obama 41% Hillary 30%.