What We Can Learn From The Republican Exit Polls

by John B. Judis | January 8, 2008

Arizona Sen. John McCain defeated former Gov. Mitt Romney to win the New Hampshire Republican primary. And there is a delicious irony in this result.  If you look at their political history before the presidential race began last year, Romney is the more moderate of the candidate, particularly on social and economic issues.  His main foreign policy advisor Mitchell Reiss is also a former aide to Colin Powell and probably more critical of the conduct of the Iraq war than McCain ever was.

But if you look at the exit polls, McCain got his edge over Romney by winning over moderates and people who were critical of Bush administration's foreign and economic policies and who took a more liberal position on abortion or gay civil unions. These could have been Romney's voters, but he opted to market himself as a right-winger. As a result, he bested McCain only among voters who considered themselves "very conservative"  and were "enthusiastic" about the Bush administration. In New Hampshire, these voters were a decided minority. Here's a more detailed breakdown.

McCain's biggest margins over Romney were among the following: college graduates and post-graduates, independents, voters who considered themselves liberal and moderate (who made up 47 percent of the GOP electorate), those were "dissatisfied or angry" with the Bush administration, those who "disapprove" of the Iraq war (36 percent of the GOP electorate), those who were worried about the economy (80 percent of the GOP electorate), those who wanted a candidate who "says what he believes," who will be the most effective leaders and commander in chief, who supports civil unions (38 percent of the GOP electorate!), and those who want a change to "less conservative politics."

Romney did best among the very conservative and those who thought illegal immigration was the most important issue.  He also "won" the contest for who ran the most "unfair campaign."  In that result and in the in the measure of which candidate "says what he believes" (where McCain bested Romney by 49 to 13 percent), you can credit the Union Leader and Concord Monitor editorials that excoriated Romney as a phony.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/the-plank/what-we-can-learn-the-republican-exit-polls