The wide-open battle for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination -- with nearly a three-way tie among Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney -- is quite different from the typical pattern observed in past Republican nomination contests. In Gallup polling since 1952, Republican Party nomination races always featured a clear front-runner at this stage of the campaign, and in almost all cases, that front-runner ultimately won the nomination.
Winning a presidential nomination is never assured, and every eventual nominee encounters competition and threats of varying degrees on his or her way to the convention. However, looking retrospectively at the 10 open or competitive Republican races since 1952, early Republican front-runners have had very good odds, prevailing in 8 of these. Additionally, although Goldwater did not lead the earliest Gallup Republican preference polls in 1963, he was leading by the spring of that year and thus comes close to fitting the pattern. The only nominee to truly break the mold was McCain, running a distant second to Giuliani throughout 2007. However, by virtue of his undisputed second-place ranking, McCain was able to capitalize on Giuliani's poor early primary showing and ultimate withdrawal from the race in late January, springing ahead of his remaining rivals.
Monday, March 7, 2011
Front Runners and Historical Context