Conservative void push poll

Bob Novak has a discussion of the "where is the conservative" theme of this election. He discusses Keiran Mahoney’s survey of Iowa caucusgoers. First he asks where they are. Then he "pushes" them with information. Are these the numbers you thought he would get?

  Before After Change
McCain 33 35.3 +2
Giuliani 31.5 22.3 -9
Romney 8.8 3.8 -5

I take several things from this:

  1. It is clear that potential future voters just don’t know where Rudy Giuliani is.
  2. If Romney continues to sell himself as a conservative, the facts will bite him. He lost over fifty percent of his support.
  3. John McCain emerges as "good enough" in this environment. He actually goes up when "problems" are highlighted and the voter is forced to choose from the alternatives.

Now the problem that Novak is struggling with is that when good things are said about Jim Gilmore, he bounces up ahead of the others. But … there’s a lot of bad about Gilmore, and all the other "credible conservative alternatives". Brownback has a whole host of issue problems (immigration, global warming, etc., not that I’m saying he is wrong). Huckabee is a tax raiser.Gilmore is functionally pro-choice and has a "gas tax" problem. Gingrich has personal past problems and has already resigned from office once for misdeeds.

Ultimately, I think that the lesson of this exercise is that McCain may be able to cobble together the votes to win by being a decent number of people’s first picks, and an awful lot of people’s second picks. And once other candidates are knocked down a bit, votes may just acrue to McCain.