Monday, January 07, 2008

Patriots On Fox Debate: Thumbs Up, Mitt!
Rasmussen: Resurgent Romney

Concord, New Hampshire, 01/07/08 (photo link update, 01/08):

Last night I watched the Fox News-sponsored Republican debate from the lobby of my Comfort Inn lodgings up here in Concord, New Hampshire. Clearly, advantage Romney!

It was quite fascinating because a few of us shared the viewing area in the lobby with a group of Patriots -- 19 of them to be exact -- students from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Nearly all of the students were enrolled in a political communication class at New Century College at George Mason, taught by Janette Muir, PhD. They have all been here for several days on a field trip to the Granite State to observe the Presidential primary race, and in many instances to directly participate in the process by volunteering for their respective favorite candidates.

Here is an AP photo of a few of the students in the foreground, haming it up with Mitt Romney at an event held in Nashua, New Hampshire, on the afternoon of the 6th.

A good friend, Dick Kamin (former New Jersey Assemblyman and a Mitt Romney volunter here in New Hampshire) and I both sat down in the lobby to watch the debate. We both exchanged pleasantries and chatted with a few of the students in brief breaks during the event.

Just as the debate ended, Kamin decided just out of curiosity to ask the group of mostly upper year college students if they would be willing to share their immediate impressions of the debate. They were happy to. Though obviously a mixed group in terms of their particular preferences, most of them seemed to readily identify Mitt Romney as the winner of the exchange, with just a few exceptions.

Right at that point, the coverage on Fox turned to Frank Luntz and his instant response technique with his survey group of New Hampshire observers of the debate. We all watched as the participants in his focus group all quickly confirmed what clearly had been the students' predominant first impression, leading Luntz to conclude from his observations that in this final debate, Mitt Romney had "hit a homerun." Hugh Hewitt has the videos of the Luntz focus group posted on his site. It is great news for the Romney campaign.

Incidentally, George Mason University was named for the American revolutionary era patriot, and founding father of the nation, who hailed from Virginia. As a delegate from Virginia to the Constitutional Convention, Mason was perhaps most notable for consistently championing individual rights and liberties. Years before, in 1776, he had authored the Virginia Declaration of Rights, a document that influenced our Declaration of Independence that same year. In 1787, Mason even refusing to sign the United States Constitution, because it did not embody guarantees of individual rights and liberties, and he worked with fellow Virginian, James Madison, in framing what became the first ten amendments to our Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights. They were introduced as such in that First Congress of the United States by Madison in 1789. Mason died a few years later in 1792.

It was quite a diverse group of students who traveled here from George Mason for the primary. In fact, the school has become quite well known for it's diversity, having been recently rated the 4th most diverse school in the country by the Princeton Review*.

For example, we learned from Professor Muir that one student is Iranian, one comes from Peru, and a third hails from South Korea. She and a few students chatted with us briefly after the debate, as they were deciding what their itinerary would be for the next day. They noted that the class had even created a website, Patriots on the Campaign Trail, to memorialize their trip to New Hampshire, where it appears that at least one student daily has posted their thoughts since the beginning of their trek around New Hampshire that began back on January 2nd.

After discussing it among themselves last night, several of the George Mason students were planning to get moving early this morning to attend a few events today, including a Barack Obama event up in Lebanon, which is located west and north of here along the Connecticut River near the Vermont border, about an hour or more drive from here, and then possibly a John McCain event this afternoon back here in Concord.

Today, it looks like both groups -- the George Mason students and Frank Luntz's focus group -- are reflecting the reality in the Republican race here in New Hampshire. The Rasmussen poll is now reporting that the Republican race has narrowed to a statistical dead heat, with a resurgent Mitt Romney only trailing McCain by one point, 32 - 31! Only two days ago, polls had McCain up by 6 points. The bottom has now dropped out of McCain's lead.

Rasmussen also specifically surveyed on a very significant point, one we had made previously both here, and here -- that as John McCain tries to appeal to Independents, he will be competing with Barack Obama and others, and that he would also be risking Republican and conservative support as he tacked left. Rasmussen's survey notes that Romney clearly leads among likely Republican voters, while McCain is only getting a dwindling share of independents who will likely vote in the Republican contest. The trend is clearly to Romney.

From Rasmussen:
John McCain is facing an unusual two-front challenge as he seeks to hang on to a narrow lead in New Hampshire’s Republican Presidential Primary. He is competing with Mitt Romney for votes in the Republican Primary. At the same time, he is competing with Barack Obama for Independent voters who can choose to vote in either the Republican or the Democratic Primary on Tuesday.

At the moment, he is losing ground to Obama which is causing him problems with Romney. On Friday, the Rasmussen Reports survey found that Independent voters were likely to make up 32% of the Republican Primary electorate. That dropped to 27% of Sunday. As a result, McCain’s lead over Romney has dipped to a statistically insignificant one-point advantage.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey in New Hampshire shows John McCain earning 32% of the vote while Mitt Romney attracts 31%.

The survey was conducted on Saturday and Sunday. All interviews were conducted before Sunday night’s debate. Romney leads by five percentage points among Republicans while McCain leads by thirteen among Independents likely to take part.
In fact, there were earlier indications of this trend. Early this morning USAToday printed a USAToday/Gallup Poll demonstrating that McCain's lead had already begun to dwindle prior to last night's debate. The poll indicated McCain had dropped back to a four point lead that was at six points only a few days ago.

But the USAToday headline was utterly misleading, saying, "Poll: Obama, McCain Gain."

As to the Republican race, it should have said, "McCain: Slip and Fall."

Local news coverage here in New Hampshire, such as at the Concord Monitor, however, largely buried coverage of the Fox debate, and were still printing front page stories analyzing comments from the debate Saturday night on ABC.

* A private organization that does educational preparation work, not affiliated with Princeton University.

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