The latest poll (Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby, MOE 3.3%) shows McCain leading Romney by 27% to 24% on the day before the Michigan primary. Huckabee is third with 15%. This is a rolling three-day survey, with the most recent day replacing the most distant one. As was the case in New Hampshire, independents and Democrats can vote in the Republican primary. Ron Paul, who has not been excluded from recent GOP debates, has 8%, ahead of Giuliani (6%) and Thompson (5%). It’s disgraceful that Paul, who has a vocal and loyal constituency, and considerable funding, is not part of the debates.
Romney leads McCain among Republicans, 30% to 21%, but McCain leads Romney among independents (33% to 18%) and Democrats (35% to 17%). In New Hampshire, McCain’s support among non-Republicans created considerable speculation over whether independents would vote in the Democratic primary to support Obama or the Republican primary to support McCain, and their tilt toward McCain was one reason Obama did not perform as well as polls had predicted.
Divided loyalty will not be an issue in Michigan, because Obama and Edwards are not on the Democratic ballot. The national Democratic party objected to Michigan’s moving up the date for its primary, and Obama and Edwards chose not to compete. (Hillary Clinton is on the ballot.) Consequently, independents don’t face a choice between McCain and Obama. The Obama and Edwards forces are trying to persuade their supporters to vote “uncommitted” in the Democratic primary, but such efforts are seldom successful.
The Republican contest is one neither of the frontrunners can afford to lose: McCain, because it would break his momentum, Romney because he needs a victory badly.