The latest Field Poll of the Republican presidential race in California came out today, and it shows Rudy Giuliani still in front, but falling. He has dropped 10 points since the previous poll in August. Here is how the candidates stand on the basis of polling conducted between October 11 and October 21:
This is quite a change since August (top four only):
The most interesting thing about the poll is where the support Giuliani lost ended up. Not Romney: He was -1. Thompson was +1. McCain was +3, but that was after eroding -15 between March and August. No, it was the second-tier candidates who gained. Huckabee: +3, from 1% to 4%. Ron Paul: +3, from 1% to 4%. Hunter: +1, from 2% to 3%. And Undecided: +2, from 20% to 22%.
This shift at the bottom indicates a deep dissatisfaction with the Republican field, three and a half months before the February 5 primary in which a mother lode of delegates are at stake. Giuliani lost ground, but the big-name challengers couldn’t take advantage; they still trail him by double-digit margins. And 22% undecided, in a race that has been going on for months, is a real slap in the face for the front-runners.
The poll includes several sub-categories. The most important is ideology. Among respondents who identify themselves as “strongly conservative,” Giuliani has 24% to Romney’s 20%, with McCain at 10% and Thompson at 13%. If Giuliani remains in the lead among strong conservatives, who make up 47% of the Republican electorate, he’ll finish first in the primary. On the less conservative side of the spectrum (53% of the electorate; you probably didn’t need me to tell you that), Giuliani leads Romney by 26% to 7%, with McCain at 15% and Thompson at 10%. (“Others” received 13%, “Undecided” 20%.) So a third of the strong conservatives reject the front-runners. Giuliani also polls better among respondents ages 50 and up than among voters 18 to 49, and among females than males. I thought three divorces were supposed to hurt him.
The main conclusion to take away from all this is that this is a volatile electorate. I doubt that California is much different from anywhere else. Republicans are mad, they don’t like their choices, and they are drawn to candidates they know little about, because they don’t like the candidates they know something about.