Thursday, January 18, 2007

McCain's Slipping in NH?

The Boston Herald is reporting a new poll showing McCain slipping significantly among independent voters in New Hampshire, from 49% a year to 29% today. The New Hampshire findings are similar to those reported last month in the Washington Post, which showed McCain slipping about 15% nationwide among independents.

But while the national polls will be cited as vulnerability on McCain's strongest argument -- general election appeal -- the New Hampshire one has more immediate ramifications. Independent voters are especially important in New Hampshire because they can take either ballot -- Republican or Democractic -- when they go to the polls on Primary Day; in 2000, McCain's surge came from Independents who chose him over Bill Bradley.)

The decline comes at a time when McCain is backing the President's plan for sending more troops to Iraq and has aggressively reached out to conservative groups and Christian conservative leaders, both of which are unpopular among independents. Moreover, he may have calculated that notwithstanding New Hampshire, independents are not are important as 'base conservatives' in GOP primaries. Those voters were Bush's firewall in South Carolina, and McCain has been trying to create own "Southern safe haven."

Do not be surprised to see a number of "McCain in trouble" stories in the press. The polls referenced above will start the ball rolling, and will be reinforced by a grouchy press corps that will no longer have the same unfettered access to the candidate as they had in 2000 on the "Straight Talk Express." But the GOP base is no fan of the MSM, and McCain may in fact be helped with Republican voters when he is criticized by the editorial pages of the NYT.

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