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Monday, February 04, 2008
Would Huckabee Supporters Flock to Romney?

While looking over the Florida exit polling on the GOP side, I noticed something that does not bode well for Mitt Romney. Here's a look at the second choices:

The first interesting thing here is that McCain not only won Florida, 36% to 31% for Romney, but he also was the second choice for most of the voters, 20% to 19% for Romney and 19% as well for Giuliani. Now the second interesting thing to realize is that McCain had fewer voters who could pick him in second place, because so many of them had already chosen him in the first position on the ballot.

Think about it for a second. McCain got 36%; that means that 64% of the voters were able to pick him in second place. This indicates that his 20% of all voters choosing him in second actually made up 31.3% of the total that he could possibly have received (.20/.64). I ran the numbers and here are the results:

McCain 31.3%
Romney 27.5%
Giuliani 22.4%
Huckabee 11.6%
Paul 3.1%
Thompson 7.1%

This certainly indicates that as candidates drop out, McCain should continue to do better. Unfortunately the polling doesn't show us directly who the second choice was for, say Huckabee supporters. It tells us the opposite; looking at the top line, for example, we can see that of the 19% who chose Giuliani in second place, 5% chose Huckabee as their top pick, 46% picked McCain, 2% selected Paul, and 47% voted for Romney. So it takes a little calculation on a spreadsheet to tease out the second place choices for each candidate.

Let's illustrate with John McCain's line. We know that 20% of the voters in Florida chose him as their second pick. Since there were roughly 1.92 million voters, that means that 384,000 picked him second. Of those, 24% were Giuliani supporters, or roughly 92,000 voters. Ditto with Huckabee. Ron Paul's supporters and the Fredheads each gave him another 3800 second places, while Mitt Romney's partisans showered McCain with 188,000 "silver medals". The total works out to be 380,000, a little off the expected 384,000 due to rounding in the percentages, but nothing to worry about.

Now do Romney's total. He got 19% of the second choices, or roughly 365,000 votes for that position. He picked up 25% of those votes from Giuliani supporters, or 91,000. He garnered 19% of his second places from Mike Huckabee's fans, or 69,000 votes. The McCainiacs donated 51% of Mitt's #2 votes, or 186,000. Oddly, the Ronulans really liked Mitt; they gave him 4% of his total, or 15,000 votes.

Well, you can probably already see the key figures in there. Huckabee's supporters split their second choices as follows:

McCain: 92,177
Romney: 69,325
Giuliani: 18,243
Thompson: 16,131
Would Not Have Voted: 11,522

John McCain was the very much the second choice of Huckabee supporters, by a fairly wide margin. This certainly does not validate the claims by Romney supporters that Huckabee's mucking up Romney's shot at knocking off McCain; if anything it indicates precisely the opposite.

Problems? The totals do not add up for any of the candidates. Huckabee's supporters according to this tabulation, recorded 207,398 selections for second place, including would not have voted, while his actual vote count was about 260,000. So there appears to have been some sort of leakage; possibly voters who got tired of the exit polling after awhile and declined to continue to answer? I note that the problem exists for each candidate; there are about 20% of the voters who did not indicate a second place candidate no matter whom they picked in first.

The calculations indicate that Giuliani voters were about evenly split between McCain and Romney for their second choice. If the Romney forces really want to get somebody out of the race, they should focus their efforts on Ron Paul; this poll indicates they would pick up about four votes for every one that McCain would receive from the Ronulans. Of course, that's still peanuts because Ron Paul isn't picking up many votes to begin with.

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