Shots Across the Bow

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Strength in Numbers

UPDATED with new polling data below.

Thompson contrarian AC ( Fred won't run. He's not going to run. He can't run. OK, he might run, but probably not. He probably will run.)Kleinheider says in one post that Fred is polling well because he's famous, then in a later post says Fred isn't really famous at all.

The two relevant quotes:
Yes, Thompson is polling impressively without officially declaring himself a candidate. But you have to remember a lot of the polls at this stage are tallying name recognition and public perception.

Then

On the flipside however, his lack of true celebrity is just that. He simply isn't all that famous.


So according to ACK, Fred only polls well because he's famous, but he also polls well because he's not really famous.

I'm sorry; that's just a bit too nuanced for me. It sound too much like a guy who is twisting every fact in order to support a preconceived conclusion, rather than letting the facts speak for themselves.

Let's try a different approach. Let's look at the facts first, and then form a conclusion.

Looking at the Rasmussen poll details, we see that Thompson does have a problem with a lack of name recognition. 37% of likely voters don't know enough about Fred to classify him as conservative, liberal, or moderate. Even 30% of Republicans don't know enough about him to classify his ideology. So the question we have to ask is how he can poll so well when fully 1/3rd of likely voters don't know about him?

One possible answer is that those who do know about him like him. A lot. Looking deeper into the Rasmussen numbers, we see that among independent voters, Thompson enjoys a 33/26 favorable/unfavorable rating, with a whopping 40% not knowing him well enough. But what is more interesting is the pattern of the numbers. It should come as no surprise that most people rate Thompson in the "somewhat" categories; that dovetails with his relative lack of name recognition. But what is interesting is that the independent voter pattern follows the Republican voter pattern, indicating potential strength among independent voters.

Now let's do a little extrapolating. I'm going to assume that as people get to know more about Fred, they'll break down the same way the majority in their group already have. I think this is a conservative measure and may actually understate the actual support he'll get as he declares,and I'll explain why this is in a moment. If the undecideds of each group (Republican, Democrat, Independent) track along with their majorities, Fred should wind up with about a 55%/45% favorable/unfavorable rating. Compare that with McCain's 49%/43%.

Now I said this was a conservative extrapolation, and here's why. Let's take a look at the GOP Straw poll. This is not a scientific poll, and the results will be skewed, so we can't take any actual numbers out of it, but we can spot trends, particularly within the most active elements the Republican party. As of the time I write this, Fred Thompson has an overwhelming lead with over 51% of the total vote.

Big deal. We're just bloggers, and if nothing else, Howard Dean proved the bloggers alone cannot win an election.

But once again, let's look deeper into the numbers.

Let's filter out everyone except for the RINOs, the most moderate/liberal portion of the GOP. How did they vote? Well, contrary to what you might expect, Fred and Rudy tied for first place with 22% of the vote. Now think about that for a minute. The most moderate portion of the GOP blogosphere does not favor Giuliani over Thompson. In fact, looking down further, we find that these moderate Republicans hold a more favorable view of Thompson than they do of Giuliani. (To add insult to injury, if you filter the data for just New Yorkers, Thompson still beats Giuliani handily.)

That is important. That is a big deal. If Fred enters the race, we can expect to see Giuliani lose a great deal of support among the grassroots and activists who dominate the primaries.(More on that in a minute)(See UPDATE below for evidence.)

Let's take a look at another number from the GOP straw poll. Selecting for certainty of vote, of the poll respondents who were most certain of their vote, Thompson wins with 53%. It gets worse for Giuliani, for among those respondents who were least committed to their candidate, Fred still garnered 3 times the votes of Giuliani.

So why are these trends important? Looking at Fred's strong support among the moderate and undecided portions of the GOP indicates that his numbers among independents will break more favorably than I extrapolated. Even more importantly, the Rasmussen group "likely voters" is not necessarily the same as "likely primary voters." Take Missouri for example. In the Missouri Democratic Primary, there were 413,000 votes. In the general election, there were 1.26 million Democratic votes. This means that in Missouri, only the most active 1/3 of likely voters participate in primary voting.

So what do you want to bet that those active likely voters are disproportionately represented among bloggers or blog readers?

So now the GOP straw poll does become a big deal, or at least a bigger deal, anyway. To some extent, and it's difficult to say precisely how much, it represent not just likely voters, but likely primary voters, and Thompson's huge lead in that group is a major campaign advantage.

It remains to be seen if he can capitalize on that advantage, or if he'll squander it as did Howard Dean, although to be fair, Dean was hulled amidships by his own party, as the DNC was determined to field a more traditional candidate. Thompson could fall afoul of the same political machinations if the RNC decides to throw its weight behind McCain or Giuliani the same way they did for Dubya in 2000. But given Thompson's broad based appeal, that doesn't seem too likely at this point.

So where does this examination of the facts lead us? Well, despite a lack of name recognition, polling data suggests that Thompson garners support from the full breadth of the GOP, a situation that will help him in the general election. The fact that he dominates polling among the activists bodes well for the primaries. His broad based favorable ratings would seem to indicate that the undecideds will break markedly in his favor as they learn more about him, adding to the strength of his primary campaign. Additionally,as those who don't know him connect his face with his name, that should garner more support.

On the negative side, his lack of name recognition means that many people don't know where he stands on the issues. Nor do they have a good feel for his character. As Barry pointed out in a comment to an earlier post, we're missing crucial pieces of information about Fred, pieces that will have to be filled in over the next couple of months or so.

UPDATE The latest Q-poll shows Fred at 14% compared to Rudy's 27%. This would look bad for Fred except that in the last poll, which didn't include Fred, Rudy polled at 40%. Remember how I said a Fred Thompson candidacy would likely pull a lot of support away from Rudy? This is proof.
Posted by Rich
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ACk seems a little weird about Fred. Time will tell.
Posted by Number9  on  05/03  at  02:29 PM

I don't think it's weird. He's picked a storyline that's guaranteed to generate traffic, and he's going to push it as far as he can. You can already see him triangulating to catch the next contrarian wave. Now instead of boldly declaring that Fred won't run, he's instead declaring that Fred will run, but is too lazy to win the nomination. Who cares whether he's wrong or right as long as hes generating traffic?
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