- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Republicans would just as soon have a virtually unknown Pentagon official as their presidential standard-bearer as the top five declared party hopefuls, a new poll shows.

“In our telephone survey, we recited short bios — not mentioning names — of the former mayor of a large Northeastern city and hero of 9/11, of a maverick U.S. senator and decorated war hero, of an actor and former U.S. senator and so on,” said pollster John Zogby.

“And then we gave a bio of a complete unknown, and he got as much support as Giuliani and Thompson,” said Mr. Zogby, whose similar 1999 poll gave the first hint that John McCain could upset George W. Bush in the 2000 New Hampshire primary.

The latest poll, taken Sept. 6-10, provides brief but glowing biographical sketches of Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

The sixth bio reads, in part: “A world-renowned physician and researcher, leader in biotechnology, administrator of one of the leading heart and cancer research centers [who] also manages a government agency with a nearly $50 billion annual budget and over 130,000 employees.”

The bio also describes the unnamed “Candidate A” as a “decorated Iraq war veteran, a lifelong Republican, a cancer survivor, a successful entrepreneur, and a strong family man … [and] favors making the existing tax cuts permanent to provide economic stability.”

The bio refers to Zogby acquaintance Ward Casscells, a cardiologist serving as the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. Mr. Zogby says his acquaintance has no ambition for elective office.

In the blind-bio poll of 300 likely Republican primary voters, 19 percent favored Mr. Thompson, the former Tennessee senator and actor, and another 19 percent favored Mr. Giuliani.

The surprise, Mr. Zogby said, was that 18 percent supported Dr. Casscells for the nomination in the same poll, with 13 percent going for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and 10 percent for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“We have been following this campaign for over a year and the leading candidates have been raising millions of dollars and are well-known,” Mr. Zogby said. “We also know that there is dissatisfaction with the field, and the assumption has been that there must be the ‘real conservative’ in the race to capture the disgruntled and disillusioned Republican voters.

“But we didn’t expect Dr. Casscells’ blind bio to put him even with the leading candidates.”

In 1994, similar biographical polling methods by Mr. Zogby revealed then-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo’s vulnerability to a then-unknown New York state senator named George E. Pataki. A blind-bio Zogby poll in 1999 showed that Mr. Bush, who then was Texas governor, was vulnerable to Mr. McCain. Mr. McCain ultimately upset Mr. Bush in the 2000 New Hampshire primary.

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