News from the Votemaster
Good news for conservative Republicans today. Also good news for Democrats today. Here it is:
For the conservative Republicans: Fred Thompson dropped out of the race yesterday.
Is this good news for both? Yes! Thompson was that rare presidential candidate who hated campaigning (like Al Gore). But unlike Gore, who undoubtedly would have enjoyed governing (he was a true policy wonk) it is doubtful that he would have liked the actual work a President has to do. He was widely described as lazy, unambitious, and careless, with few things he was passionate about. In his eight years in the Senate, there were no Thompson bills or Thompson hearings or Thompson anything. In the spring and summer of this year, Rudy Giuliani was leading all the polls by double digits, which seemed so strange to many because although he was elected mayor of New York as a Republican, he governed as a liberal Democrat. He seemed like a terrible fit for the modern Republican party. Pudgy pundit Charlie Cook once said that he (Cook) would win the Tour de France before the Republicans would nominate Giuliani.
Various people brought up Thompson's name all Spring and Summer as a genuine Southern conservative with a red pickup truck to prove it. If Thompson had jumped into the race in June and worked his tail off, he might well have snared the nomination. But he dithered and did nothing, and by the time he got in in September, he had established a reputation for indecison. Perhaps he will now go back to acting. He could play Hamlet convincingly ("To run or not to run, that is the question.")
So what is the consequence of his withdrawal? For the conservative Republicans, it means their vote is not split three ways (Thompson, Huckabee, and Romney). In South Carolina, this trio got twice as many votes as John McCain, but due to the three-way split, McCain won the primary and got tons of free publicity. If Thompson had dropped out before South Carolina and his votes had been split evenly over Huckabee and Romney, Huckabee would have won. In future primaries the conservative vote will be split only two ways, which helps both Huckabee and Romney and hurts McCain, who is something as a moderate. See this table that rates the senators. It was prepared in 2004, but still shows what interest groups think of him (the 8th most liberal Republican). If anyone wants to update the table, it would be appreciated.
Thus Thompson's departure increases the chances that one of the conservative candidates gets the nomination because many of the upcoming Republican primaries are winner-take-all.
Why are Democrats rejoicing at this news? Because McCain is probably the most electable Republican, precisely because he draws heavy support from indpendents and Democrats (see poll). Anything that hurts McCain hurts the Republicans strongest general election candidate. Huckabee is not campaigning much in Florida due to lack of money, but Thompson's quitting will certainly help him.
Also interesting is that Thompson did not endorse any of the other candidates. In 2000, he endorsed McCain and this was clearly the moment to do so again, but he declined. Maybe he actually is quietly rooting for Huckabee or Romney now.
A number of people have asks for more head-to-head matchups like Monday's and Tuesday's. Not yet. Even these didn't mean very much and the others mean even less. If you want to know how the other matchups turn out, the data is on SurveyUSA's Website.
As a technical aside, the software has been changed not to display Thompson in the Web page with all the polls, but his data is still in the .csv file and will continue to be there for the benefit of future graduate students in political science who want to dissect the 2008 races after it is all over. Of course, there won't be any new polling data for him starting almost immediately, so his field in the .csv field will be empty from now on.
Some observers noted that there appeared to be a difference inthe New Hampshire election results depending on which voting technology was used. DRE voting machines were not used anywhere in the state, so they can't be the culprit here. The difference was between optical scan machines and hand counted paper ballots. A study of the election made by professors at Dartmouth, Stanford, and the University of Michigan has now been released. If you like academic studies of voting technologies, check it out.
Here are today's new polls.
CNN is keeping track of the delegates for the Democrats and for the Republicans. Note that other sources may differ because CNN is trying to count the PLEOs (Party Leaders and Elected Officials) and when different reporters call a PLEO and hear "Well, I like Hillary, but Barack has his charms too" they may score it differently. Not all the PLEOs are known yet because often 30 county chairmen want to go to the convention and the state gets only 10 PLEOs, so they have a competitive election internal to the party. Here is CNN's count:
-- The Votemaster