IVR Polls, a recent addition to the Texas polling scene, released a poll last Friday showing that Rudy Giuliani has opened a five-point lead over Fred Thompson among previous Republican primary voters. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has pulled into a tie for third with Mitt Romney. The survey was based upon responses from 532 previous Republican primary voters and had a margin of error of 4.3%. The results:

Giuliani – 24%
Thompson – 19%
Huckabee – 14%
Romney – 14%
Tancredo – 7%
McCain – 6%
Paul – 6%
Hunter – 4%
Keyes – 0%
Undecided 6%

“IVR” stands for “Integrated Voice Response,” which refers to “a technique for interaction with a computer through a telephone keypad, usually in response to a recorded or synthesized voice.” Translation: Like SurveyUSA and Rasmussen, IVR is a fully automated poll in which respondents answer questions by punching the appropriate number on their telephones. The company is run by Ralph Bordie, son of former Texas Senate parliamentarian Camilla Bordie.

The commentary that accompanied the release of the poll said, “Fred Thompson’s support is fading among previous Texas Republican primary voters. Back in June, long before he officially became a candidate, Thompson led the race with 29%. At the end of August, he had slipped slightly to 25% and by mid-October, he has fallen to 19%, behind Rudy Giuliani, who added three points to 24%.”

Looking at age brackets:
–Thompson and Romney led among under-40 voters at 23%, followed by Huckabee and Romney at 14%;
–Thompson and Giuliani tied for the lead among voters ages 40 to 59, followed by Huckabee at 16% and Romney at 14%.
–Giuliani was well ahead among voters 60 and older at 32%, followed by Thompson at 15%, Huckabee at 14% and Romney at 11%.
–No other candidate broke 10% in any age bracket.

Concerning a potential governor’s race in 2010 between Hutchison and Perry, IVR asked this question: “Kay Bailey Hutchison has indicated she might resign her Senate seat to run for Governor in 2010. Would you rather have Hutchison, Rick Perry or someone else for Governor next term?”

The result:
Hutchison 55%
Perry 18%
Someone else 20%
Undecided 7%

Noting that an IVR poll on 8/31 showed that Perry had a 63% approval rating among previous Republican primary voters, Bordie concluded that the results of the poll represented pro-Hutchison sentiment rather than anti-Perry. Another interesting finding was that there was no gender gap. (Intuitively, I would have expected Hutchison to receive stronger support from women than Perry. Maybe there’s something to this hair business — his, not hers — after all.)

The poll also compared Perry’s and Hutchison’s strength among supporters of the various GOP presidential candidates. Hutchison led Perry in every case. She did best among McCain supporters (79%) and worst among Tancredo supporters (28%).

The numbers in the presidential race seem about right to me. I have always believed that Rudy would be the nominee. He is the only major contender with a clear rationale for his candidacy — national security — and a record to support it. Thompson’s decline is a classic case of the dangers of high expectations. If you don’t live up to them, you’re dead. (George W. Bush’s candidacy in 2000 benefited from low expectations, as skillfully manipulated by Karl Rove and Karen Hughes.) The main hope for the rest of the field is that Giuliani will fade under scrutiny from the national press concerning his record as mayor of New York. He’ll take some hits, but I think he will benefit from the accelerated schedule of primaries. So many delegates will have been won by February 5, the date of the California primary, that the race may well be over before the scrutiny has taken place–or, to put it another way, I think the scrutiny will come in the general election rather than the primary. So far, we have seen virtually nothing, except the firefighters’ challenge to his involvement on 9/11.

I am surprised by the size of Hutchison’s lead over Perry. I think she would have defeated Perry in either 2002 or 2006, had she chosen to contest the Republican primary, but the races would have been brutal and the margins would have been in the high single digits. Hutchison’s star power would have overcome her ideological vulnerabilities. The 55-18 margin is a reflection of the Perry fatigue among the voters that was evident in 2006. I have written that I do not think that Perry can face the voters again, because of the hostile constituencies that he has created against himself on his support for toll roads and coal-fired power plants and his hostility to the education community. And let us not forget HPV and the Texas Youth Commission scandal. But Mike Baselice, Perry’s pollster, told me that he disagrees: Perry’s approval rating has climbed above 50%, the highest it has been for some time. Some of Perry’s buddies are circulating a prototype bumper sticker: “Again in 10.” Just a joke. I think.