A new FoxNews/Opinion Dynamics poll is out for South Carolina, and it’s good news for Giuliani (story here, full results here). Not just because he is a whisker ahead of McCain 26 percent to 25 percent (with Romney at 14 percent). Skeptics will look at that headline number, and say, it’s only a matter of time before South Carolina conservatives find out Giuliani’s social views and sour on him (especially in light of his recent stumble). However, if you look at the poll with more detail, you will see that it supports something I’ve long been arguing: this will be the first contested Republican primary season since 9/11, and national security issues will play more dominant role, creating a unique opening for Giuliani.
When likely South Carolina Republican primary voters were asked to identify the most important issue to them a total of 51 percent* named a national-security related issue, whereas a total of only 6 percent** named a social issue. If you add immigration, another issue where many conservatives have a beef with Giuliani, that makes an additional 6 percent of the Republican electorate that may be hostile to his candidacy. The rest of the responses relate to economic, fiscal and non-social domestic issues on which Giuliani is strong.
In another interesting part of the poll, only 59 percent of likely Republican primary voters identified themselves as pro-life, compared to 32 percent who said they were pro-choice, and 10 percent who either had mixed views on the subject or didn’t know. That number surprised me, because I would have thought that South Carolina Republicans would be more pro-life than that.
Clearly this is just a single poll, so all caveats apply. And I don’t mean to suggest that social issues will be unimportant in the primaries, just that they won’t play as dominant a role as they have in prior cycles. A lot of those pundits who are dismissing Giuliani’s chances are basing their judgment on a pre-9/11 model of Republican primaries in which a candidate who fails social issue litmus tests cannot win. This is just another data point suggesting they may be wrong.
*The 51 percent total is comprised of: 37 percent who named war/Iraq; 7 percent named homeland/national security; 5 percent named terrorism–not Iraq; 1 percent named foreign policy–not Iraq; 1 percent named Iran.
**The 6 percent is comprised of: 4 percent named family values/morals; 1 percent said gay marriage; 1 percent said abortion.
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