- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2007

All the polls show that Rudolph W. Giuliani is the clear national front-runner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, but Mitt Romney, who lags in fourth place in the same surveys, is leading in the first four party-preference contests of the 2008 campaign.

This is a rarely reported and little-noticed political paradox that is taking shape in the Republican presidential race, and which in a volatile and unpredictable campaign cycle, with a large undecided vote, could end up surprising pollsters and pundits alike.

Three months before the start of the presidential caucuses and primaries in January, the former mayor who led New York City back from the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — and has the highest name recognition among the Republican candidates — continues to lead all of them in the national polls.

According to Real Clear Politics, the Web site that tracks all the election polls, Mr. Giuliani led with a 27.8 percent average, followed by former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson with 22.4 percent, Arizona Sen. John McCain with 14.4 percent, Mr. Romney with 9 percent and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee with 4.5 percent.

But state-by-state polls show Mr. Romney, the less well-known former Massachusetts governor, leading in Iowa, Michigan, Nevada and New Hampshire — the states that will lead off the party’s nominating process once the primary calendar is readjusted later this year.

The Romney campaign thinks the heavy news attention and political momentum that he will derive from these first four contests, if he is successful, would help him overtake Mr. Giuliani in the remaining contests where the New York Republican is leading.

“There are two schools of thought on this. One says that if a candidate is leading nationwide, that will help that candidate in the early states. But I’m in the old school. I think that Iowa and New Hampshire are still the gatekeepers to the nomination,” independent pollster John Zogby said.

Here’s how the top Republican candidates are performing in the six states that will begin the Republican primary season in January, according to the latest Real Clear Politics polling averages as of last week:

Iowa: Mr. Romney leads with 26 percent, followed by Mr. Giuliani with 16.8 percent, Mr. Thompson with 15.3 percent, Mr. McCain with 8.3 percent and Mr. Huckabee with 8 percent.

New Hampshire: Mr. Romney leads with 26.4 percent, followed by Mr. Giuliani with 22.4 percent, Mr. McCain with 15.2 percent, Mr. Thompson with 11.8 percent and Mr. Huckabee with 3.6 percent.

Nevada: Mr. Romney leads with 28 percent, followed by Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Thompson with 18 percent each and Mr. McCain with 8 percent.

Michigan: Mr. Romney leads with 26.3 percent, followed by Mr. Giuliani with 18.7 percent, Mr. Thompson with 14 percent, Mr. McCain with 12.7 percent and Mr. Huckabee with 3.3 percent.

However, Mr. Romney’s numbers change as the race heads South. In South Carolina, which will hold its primary on Jan. 19, Mr. Giuliani has the edge with with 21 percent, followed by Mr. Thompson with 19.8 percent, Mr. Romney with 15.3 percent, Mr. McCain with 14 percent and Mr. Huckabee with 4 percent.

And in Florida, whose primary will be on Jan. 29, Mr. Giuliani leads with 27.7 percent, followed by Mr. Thompson with 21 percent, Mr. Romney with 11.7 percent and Mr. McCain with 11 percent.

But Mr. Zogby adds this note of caution to the latest polling numbers: “The biggest number is the undecideds. We have poll numbers coming out this week showing anywhere between 20 [percent] to 22 percent nationally and in some of the states are undecided, which suggests how wide open the Republican nominating race is,” he said.


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