Skeptics of Rudy Giuliani’s candidacy who argue that his standing will suffer once voters learn more about him will be heartened by the latest NY Times/CBS poll (story here, full results here), in which his lead over John McCain shrank to 43-34, compared with 50-29 percent just a month ago. In recent weeks, Giuliani’s estranged son Andrew said he wouldn’t campaign for him, a firefighters’ union attacked his record on 9/11, and a series of articles have been written and videos broadcast demonstrating his liberal positions on social issues and troubled family life. This is all just a sign of things to come, and the polls we see over the next few weeks will give us a sense of whether Giuliani’s support among Republicans is felt deeply, or merely skin deep.
While the poll gives some ammunition to Giuliani’s detractors, his rivals cannot get too excited, because the poll also reveals deep divisions among Republicans and unease about the current slate of candidates.
Among the entire electorate, the percentage of people who have a favorable opinion of Giuliani dropped from 41 percent last month to 33 percent in this poll, while the percentage who viewed him unfavorably remained the same at 18 percent–essentially, more people now say they “haven’t heard enough” about him. But McCain’s favorables also declined, from 31 percent to 24 percent, with 21 percent having a an unfavorable view. Mitt Romney’s boosters are banking on the fact that he’s unknown right now, but argue that once people get to know him, they’ll like him more and his numbers will improve. This poll reveals just the opposite. The percentage of the electorate that said they “haven’t heard enough” about Romney declined to 59 percent from 72 percent in the last poll. And while his favorable rating went up slightly from 6 percent to 8 percent, his unfavorables nearly doubled, from 8 percent to 15 percent, making him the only one out of the three with a net negative rating.
More broadly speaking, by a margin of 59 to 38, Republican primary voters say the GOP is divided, and by a similar margin of 57 to 40, Republicans say they are not satisfied with the current crop of candidates and “want more choices.” No doubt, this sentiment is what’s fueling the Fred Thompson boomlet. Also, only 46 percent of Republicans believe the next president will be a Republican, compared with 78 percent of Democrats who believe he or she will be a Democrat.
UPDATE: A new CNN poll shows Rudy still with a comfortable 34-18 lead over McCain.