Q&A Friday #62: Why Aren’t The 2008 Front Runners More Conservative?

Question: “How come it seems like a lot of Conservatives are backing the more liberal leaning Republicans for President? Rudy is not as conservative as we know we want.Being conservative for a New Yorker is not impressive. But why does it seem like him and McCain are the frontrunners? Have people forgot that McCain is “the maverick”?It seems to me that a lot of Conservatives seem to be backing the ones that are less Conservative.We already know what kind of judges McCain would appoint. Do Conservatives really think a more Conservative candidate can’t win? Or is it just the media trying to lead us?” — abel

Answer: Well, here’s what you have to understand about the candidates: people are not looking through the whole field thoroughly and then picking the candidate they like best. Instead, they’re looking at the handful of candidates that they believe have a chance to win the nomination and picking the one they like best out of that group.

So currently, most people feel like they have a choice between the 3 candidates that are actually in the race and polling above the margin of error: Rudy, Mitt, and McCain. The thing that a lot of people don’t understand about this support is that it’s very soft.

If Fred Thompson gets in and/or if one of the 2nd tier candidates, like Duncan Hunter for example, were to take off to the point that the average person thought that he might have a chance to win, you would see significant numbers of people who are currently supporting one of the big 3 start to shift over to that candidate.

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When you put Fred Thompson in the mix for example, polling shows that he bleeds a lot of support from Rudy and drops Romney down to the margin of error — and that’s even though he hasn’t done any real campaigning. If people came to the conclusion that Duncan Hunter could win, you’d see exactly the same sort of shift.

The base is hungry for alternatives and if they believe there is a viable right-wing alternative out there to Rudy McRomney, they will abandon the big 3 candidates in large numbers to support the “conservative candidate” in the race.

PS: The reason Newt hasn’t been able to dominate the field even though he’s a brilliant conservative with high name recognition is because he has a lot of baggage and there’s a genuine concern that Newt couldn’t win the general election.

PS #2: I know I said I was going to try to avoid talking about the Republican contenders as long as I’m consulting, but since it’s Q&A Friday, I think it’s OK to relax the rules a bit.

I consult for the Duncan Hunter Campaign through TCV Media.

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