Friday, May 25, 2007

Mitt Surges in New Polls

In the News

The former governor has pulled ahead of Giuliani and McCain in Iowa and New Hampshire.

WASHINGTON Just a few weeks ago, advisers to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney spoke about a steady, gradual climb from obscurity to the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

Now, Romney has rocketed from behind and is leading the race or is neck and neck for the lead in the pivotal states of Iowa and New Hampshire, some polls show.

The road to January’s voting is still marked by potholes, including persistent charges that Romney is a flip-flopper without conviction and that his Mormon faith is still unfamiliar and perhaps suspect to some voters. There is also potential new competition from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee.

But for now at least, Romney enters the summer astride the top tier and within reach of being able to claim that he’s the front-runner for the nomination.
“He clearly has the three M’s: media, money and momentum,” independent pollster John Zogby said.

Romney led the field in fundraising in the first three months of this year. Yet until now, he trailed in popularity well behind former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. John McCain of Arizona in most polls, either nationally or in early-voting states such as Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina.

However, a poll in Iowa by The Des Moines Register this week found that Romney had leaped ahead, with the support of 30 percent of likely participants in January’s precinct caucuses, well ahead of McCain’s 18 percent and Giuliani’s 17 percent.

In another Iowa survey by the Republican public relations firm Strategic Vision, Romney led with 20 percent, up from 8 percent the month before. He was followed by Giuliani with 18 percent and McCain with 16 percent.

A third poll showed McCain with 18 percent, Giuliani with 17 percent and Romney with 16 percent.

Romney surged in New Hampshire as well. A new Zogby poll there found that he had the support of 35 percent of likely primary voters, up from 25 percent the month before. That was well ahead of Giuliani and McCain, each with 19 percent.

Analysts and insiders pointed to three reasons for the Romney rise:

•Good reviews from party members and pundits for his performance in the party’s first debate on May 3 in California.

•Unusually early television advertising in Iowa and New Hampshire. Romney has been advertising there for weeks, boasting about his record as a business executive and governor. A new ad Thursday bragged that he cut spending and taxes as governor and “enforced immigration laws, stood up for traditional marriage and the sanctity of human life.”

•His rivals are in trouble with the party’s conservative base. Giuliani’s support for abortion rights was highlighted in the first two debates, a problem in a party that still opposes abortion rights. McCain stood with Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, on an immigration bill widely reviled by conservatives as amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Romney still faces formidable obstacles. Foremost is the charge that he is a convert to conservatism after running as a more moderate or liberal candidate in Massachusetts.

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