GOP hopefuls shaky at home

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By a quirk of the calendar, the home states of the top Democratic and Republican candidates all hold their primaries Tuesday — and while the Democrats are in good shape on their home fronts, support for Republicans isn’t so certain.

It seems Republican voters who know their candidates best are, at best, lukewarm about sending them to the White House.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee fell short in straw polls on their home turfs last week. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney already lost in his own back yard, placing second in New Hampshire’s primary, although he won in his boyhood state of Michigan, where his father was governor.

“It’s related to what’s going on in the Republican field as a whole, and that’s each of the Republican candidates has a record in his home state that is largely satisfying to the base of the Republican Party, but not wholly,” said Andrew Busch, a professor at Claremont McKenna College. “They’ve each made enemies.”

Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani dropped out of the race yesterday, in time to spare himself a disastrous defeat at home, where his standing had collapsed at about the same rate as his poll numbers nationwide.

Some New York polls put him back nearly 20 percentage points. Steven Greenberg, a spokesman for the Siena College New York Poll, said voters didn’t see Mr. Giuliani as a competitor in the early states.

“As they’re paying attention, what do they see? They don’t see Giuliani competing in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina,” Mr. Greenberg said. “They see when the results come in he’s competing with Ron Paul to finish fourth, fifth, sixth.”

Mr. McCain is in better standing in Arizona, though just two months ago polls showed him trailing Mr. Giuliani in the state he has represented in Congress for decades. But Mr. Giuliani’s collapse, and other candidates’ decisions not to invest in Arizona, have helped.

Still, signs of discontent are emerging.

Last week, the Arizona Right to Life Political Action Committee endorsed Mr. Huckabee, an embarrassment to Mr. McCain, who touts his lifelong pro-life voting record. In a Jan. 19 straw poll of Maricopa County, Ariz., Republicans, Mr. McCain won — as “most unacceptable.” Nearly 60 percent of the 721 voters named him as their least-favorite choice.

Mr. McCain’s supporters discount that.

“It’s meaningless because it was cooked,” said Matt Salmon, a former congressman and state party chairman from Arizona who supports Mr. McCain. He said Mr. McCain will “do just fine” among his state’s Republicans, who have elected him repeatedly to the U.S. House and Senate.

Mr. Huckabee, meanwhile, has suffered among conservative Republicans in Arkansas. A recent straw poll in Bentonville put Mr. Huckabee in third place, with 30 votes out of 142 cast, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Mr. Romney has a mixed record in the states where he could be considered a favorite son, but appears safe in Massachusetts. A SurveyUSA poll taken last week showed him with 50 percent support, 21 percentage points higher than for Mr. McCain.

The two major Democratic candidates remaining, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, are poised to chalk up victories Tuesday in their home states.

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