Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The State of the States

A few days ago we did a round-up of the latest national 2012 Republican primary polls. The primary will actually take place in a series of state-by-state contests, with each state's results influencing subsequent contests. This means it is more important to look at the state of the race in each state. If history is any indication, the results of the first four contests will shape the rest of the primary--if not decide the winner completely.

Today, we will examine the latest polls in each of the four early primaries. Polls which were conducted after Rick Perry's entry on August 13th will be in bold, as they are the ones which should be taken most seriously.

As always, all of the early state primary polls can be found on the Primaries page.

Iowa Caucus
08/23 Magellan (R) -- Perry 24, Bachmann 22, Romney 19, Paul 9
08/22 WPA (R-Perry) -- Perry 23, Bachmann 20, Romney 16, Paul 9
08/21 PPP (D) -- Perry 21, Romney 18, Bachmann 15, Paul 12

08/04 Rasmussen -- Bachmann 22, Romney 21, Paul 16, Perry 12
07/12 Magellan (R) -- Bachmann 29, Romney 16, Pawlenty 8, Cain 8
07/11 ARG -- Bachmann 21, Romney 18, Paul 14, Palin 11
07/07 Mason-Dixon -- Bachmann 32, Romney 29, Pawlenty 7, Santorum 6

In Iowa, Perry holds onto a small lead over Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney. What's most clear is that Bachmann has fallen as Perry gained, and that both Bachmann and Romney are within striking distance of first place.

Time favors electable candidates, as voters make strategic decisions toward the end of the race. That's good for Romney and bad for Perry and (especially) Bachmann. The good news for Perry is that voters also tend to leave low-polling candidates at the very end. If Perry is able to get a substantial lead over Bachmann, her support will fall away at the last moment and rally around Perry.

Assuming Chris Christie doesn't jump into the race, either Perry or Romney could win Iowa. For the moment, the odds favor Perry, but not overwhelmingly.

New Hampshire Primary
08/16 Magellan (R) -- Romney 36, Perry 18, Paul 14, Bachmann 10
07/13 ARG -- Romney 29, Bachmann 12, Giuliani 9, Palin 8
07/05 PPP (D) -- Romney 25, Bachmann 18, Palin 11, Paul 9
07/01 UNH/WMUR -- Romney 35, Bachmann 12, Paul 7, Giuliani 7

Thus far, Romney has always managed to hold a giant lead in New Hampshire. Were he to win Iowa, his lead would grow further, and he would likely win the Republican nomination with ease. If Perry wins Iowa, Perry's numbers in New Hampshire will likely increase; Bachmann's defeat to Perry in Iowa would also result in Bachmann's numbers (such as they are) in New Hampshire to decrease. Thus, a Perry win in Iowa would make the contest in New Hampshire closer.

At this time, no one expects a winner in New Hampshire other than Romney. Instead, pundits will focus on the size of his win. If Perry comes close in New Hampshire, Romney will be seen as losing to an extent.

Nevada Caucus
07/31 PPP (D) -- Romney 31, Perry 18, Bachmann 10, Palin 10

Almost no polling has been conducted in Nevada (and none after Perry's entry), which reflects the lesser importance that Nevada is usually given, despite its place in the schedule. In 2008, Romney easily carried Nevada, thanks to overwhelming support from the Mormon vote. As with New Hampshire, pundits--to the extent that they consider the results in Nevada much at all--will be looking at the size of Romney's win.

South Carolina Primary
08/23 Magellan (R) -- Perry 31, Romney 20, Bachmann 14, Cain 9
07/17 ARG -- Romney 25, Palin 16, Bachmann 13, Cain 10

Very little polling has been done in South Carolina. Its polling does not seem to be a twin of Iowa's, mainly owing to Bachmann's lesser strength here than Iowa, the state of her birth. If Bachmann loses to Perry in Iowa, Perry's lead over her in South Carolina will balloon. Bachmann's candidacy could be crushed here, removing her as a threat to Perry. (That doesn't necessarily mean she will quit the race, however.)

Perry, as the Southerner in the race, is expected to win in South Carolina. In some ways, South Carolina is the reverse of New Hampshire; people will scrutinize the size of Perry's win. If Romney gets close, it will be a loss of sorts for Perry.