An ABC News-Washington Post poll has John McCain in second place among the Republican contenders with 19 percent, behind Giuliani (33 percent) but ahead of Thompson (16 percent), Romney (11 percent) , and Huckabee (9 percent). And this poll isn’t a total outlier — the Real Clear Politics average puts McCain in third place but very close to Thompson, who is in second.
These results represent progress for McCain. They are attributable, I think, to his strong debate performances, the improvement in Iraq since his preferred military policy was adopted, and his commitment, finally, to a secure-the-borders-first immigration policy.
The bad news, though, is that McCain still trails Giuliani substantially. McCain and Giuliiani are paired in a “semi-final” in the sense that both are competing for the same general group of voters — moderates and “non-base” conservatives. As long as McCain lags behind Giuliani, he’s going to have trouble winning primaries. Romney and Thompson, by contrast, can win primaries without being close to Giuliani in national popularity.
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side the ABC News-Washington Post has Hillary Clinton nearly lapping the field with 48 percent compared to Obama at 26 percent and Edwards at 12 percent.
JOHN adds: A commenter at the Forum says the Post poll is flawed because the respondents were largely Democrat-leaning. I think this misses the key fact about McCain, which is that his appeal is not limited to base Republicans. I haven’t studied the poll data closely, but any poll that only surveys Republicans will understate McCain’s strength, as in most states, a large percentage of his votes will come from independents.
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