Early 2008 polls offer important clues
By WILL LESTER, Associated Press Writer Sun Feb 25, 5:33 AM ET
WASHINGTON - Hillary Rodham Clinton's lead in the early polls may not
be that reassuring if history is any guide. Republican hopeful Rudy
Giuliani, however, is sitting pretty.
For at least three decades, Republicans have been far better than
Democrats in early polls at getting behind the candidates who end up
winning the party's presidential nomination.
Note that Edmund Muskie in 1972, George Wallace in 1976, Ted Kennedy
in 1980, Gary Hart in 1988, Mario Cuomo in 1992 and Joe Lieberman in
2004 were early front-runners among Democrats. None won the nomination.
Republicans have picked the early front-runner in seven of the past 10
elections, according to Gallup polling. In the other three elections,
Republican incumbents cruised to re-election.
Democrats nominated a former vice president, Walter Mondale, in 1984,
and a sitting vice president, Al Gore, in 2000. For those elections,
the early polls were more predictable at picking the front-runner.
Why has the GOP been better at predicting winners?
"There is this sense among Republicans a belief that it's a certain
person's time to run for president," said Thomas Mann, a political
analyst at the Brookings Institution. But the GOP track record is
probably due more to chance and the Republicans' success at winning
the White House since 1968, he said.
In 2008, neither party has a former vice president or president
competing for the nomination for the first time in almost 80 years.
Giuliani, a former New York City mayor, is a favorite in early polls.
But many people feel his personal history and moderate positions on
social issues may cost him support among some conservatives.
Arizona Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record) is running even or
second to Giuliani, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is
running a distant third.
Among Democrats, New York Sen. Clinton looks strong at this point,
with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama (news, bio, voting record) and former
North Carolina Sen. John Edwards giving her the stiffest competition.