As if we've not had enough confirmation of the fundamental weakness of the Republican field:
Today AP-Ipsos released a poll of the top four candidates in the GOP field (Rudy Giuliani, yet unannounced candidate Fred Thompson, John McCain and Mitt Romney,) and 'none of the above' beat all the candidates.
Yes, it's true. That option got 23% (and I doubt if it's because they all wanted to pick Duncan Hunter), while Giuliani (whose own consistent decline in polls over the past two months has only not been noticed because McCain has been falling faster) got 21%, with Thompson at 19%, McCain at 15% and Romney at 11%.
In contrast, even with some Democrats still holding out hope for Al Gore, most Democrats have expressed satisfaction with the candidates running (and if a poll sampled just Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards and Bill Richardson, the top four Democrats, we'd already have more total support according to all recent polls than would be needed to ensure that 'none of the above' didn't do very well at all.)
Put it this way-- another measure of how weak the Republican field is, is that John McCain is still polling at a level that puts him in the thick of the race. Most national Republicans (and even a lot of them right here in Arizona) don't like John McCain, don't trust John McCain and certainly don't support John McCain. Further, 'Mr. fiscal conservative' is coming off a terrible stretch of bad news, in which he pretty much destroyed his own campaign by assuming he would raise mammoth amounts of money ahd setting the spending curve so high that it is hard to imagine how anybody could be that broke after raising over $20 million more than fifteen months before the next Presidential election (and more than six months before the first primaries.) In any normal year, with decent GOP candidates, a candidate who had the high negatives of McCain who then proved himself so incompetent at running his own campaign would be long gone, or at least relegated to the 2% or below level (and yes, the candidate is responsible for his campaign if nothing else-- otherwise how could you expect him to handle being responsible for the whole country?) But he is there anyway because what other options are there?
Giuliani, as I mentioned has been slowly losing air. His campaign has not fallen as fast as McCain's, and he has raised more money than any Republican (Thompson does not have to report contributions since he still officially only has an exploratory committee) but since he grabbed the lead from McCain earlier this year, it seems like a lot of his supporters have been giving having second thoughts and have moved away from him in the polls. Maybe it's the nasty divorce he had while in the middle of an affair that has caused his kids to stop speaking to him, maybe it's his position on abortion, maybe it's the fact that other than working for a Houston based law firm that helps out Big Oil he's done little since leaving the mayor's office, maybe it's his flip-flop on gun laws, maybe it's a concern among GOP primary voters that if his successor as mayor, Michael Bloomberg runs as an independent he could all but destroy Rudy's candidacy by picking off many of his core voters, but whatever it is, the 'magic' that Rudy seemed to have, has quite clearly rubbed off with Republican voters.
Thompson keeps getting compared to Reagan. Yeah, he's a conservative and an actor. But he obviously doesn't have Reagan's charm with Republican voters, since he still can't beat 'none of the above,' and even evangelicals-- who Thompson was courting-- have not really committed to a candidate. And the truth is, Thompson has spent most of the past few years as a lobbyist on capitol hill. Many Americans believe that lobbyists are precisely at the root of what has gone wrong with Washington, and to elect one of them President would be handing the keys to the henhouse to the fox.
Romney has gone up consistently, but he is behind the other three and also hasn't made many inroads with evangelicals who are probably as important in GOP primaries as, say, African-American voters are in Democratic primaries.
And the irony is that you'd think it would be easier for these guys to convince Republicans. After all, there are fewer of them since about one in eight Republicans has left the party in the past three years.
But obviously those left are still having a tough time figuring out who to support.