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New California poll bad news for Giuliani

January 14, 2008 |  2:39 pm

Fresh polls aplenty on the presidential races today, including one gauging voter attitudes in crucial California. (It's been a long, long time since that adjective was attached to the state during primary season.) And if there's one candidate for whom the surveys are a downer, it's got to be Rudy Giuliani.

In line with Giuliani's collapsing poll numbers nationwide and in other states of late, the new L.A. Times/CNN/ survey finds him lagging behind a resurgent John McCain among Republicans in California -- and fighting for second place with Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. By contrast, a statewide Field Institute poll a month ago showed Giuliani in the lead -- the position he enjoyed in virtually every California poll for more than a year. (See the trend line here.)

The new poll, conducted between Friday and Sunday, testifies to McCain's comeback in the GOP presidential contest. In the December Field poll, he was in fourth place among those Republicans likely to vote in California's Feb. 5 primary, with 12%. In the new survey, his 20% support among likely voters puts him in first place. Romney is next, at 16%, followed by Giuliani (14%), Huckabee (13%) and Fred Thompson (6%).

The poll reports little such upheaval in the Democratic race. Hillary Clinton leads Barack Obama ...

by 16 percentage points among likely voters in the party's primary, 47% to 31%. (John Edwards is a distant third, with 10%.) The Field poll had Clinton leading Obama by 14 points.

Some caveats are in order. The new poll's margin of possible error, for both sampling groups, is large -- plus or minus 6 percentage points. Also, about six in 10 of the likely GOP voters say they might change their minds about whom they are backing. And, following the polling debacle in New Hampshire's Democratic primary, all surveys should be approached with caution.

Still, the new poll (which you can read more about here) is one more bit of evidence of the price Giuliani has paid for ignoring the Iowa caucuses and, in the final leg of the New Hampshire campaign, scaling back in that state -- all with an eye to scoring a win in Florida's Jan. 29 primary. The strategy caused him to fade from view over the last month or so -- and clearly cost him support.

Three new national polls -- USA Today/Gallup, CBS News/New York Times, ABC News/Washington Post -- underscore Giuliani's tailspin. All put McCain atop the pack, to greater or lesser degrees. Giuliani, who routinely led the national polls last year, runs third place in two and fourth in the other.

As if Giuliani's camp needed it, there was still another discouraging poll result for him today. In Florida -- his self-selected make-or-break turf -- a survey by Connecticut's Quinnipiac University finds, essentially, a four-way tie. The numbers: McCain, 22%; Giuliani, 20%; Huckabee, 19%; Romney, 19%.

On the positive side for Giuliani, his spirits no doubt were boosted by well-received campaign appearances Sunday. And he's picked up something that's a rarity for most Republicans: a celebrity endorsement.

Jon Voight, a onetime leading man who has resurrected his acting career through character parts, announced today he supports Giuliani and plans to stump for him in Florida and California. We've got to give Voight credit -- he ain't a frontrunner.

-- Don Frederick