Giuliani on a Roll?

Ex-mayor gains on Thompson; the surge success could leave Democrats badly positioned.

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Scott Rasmussen's poll reports a tightening of the Republican presidential race nationally, with Fred Thompson just 2 points behind Rudy Giuliani. But it should be noted that for several months Rasmussen showed Thompson ahead of Giuliani. Rasmussen's robopolls impose a much tighter screen on Republican primary voters, so his samples include fewer independent-leaning voters; you can see how this would help Thompson and hurt Giuliani. Whether it will reflect accurately the actual primary electorate in New Hampshire and other states is something we can't know yet. It may depend on how the Democratic race goes. If Hillary Clinton wins in the Iowa caucuses on January 3 and the New Hampshire primary that will (probably) be held on January 8, she could very well have clinched the Democratic nomination by January 9. That will leave the Republican contest the only game in town for independent-leaners. If, on the other hand, Barack Obama wins or does very well in Iowa and then scores again in New Hampshire, it could be a spirited two-way race for the Democratic nomination up at least to the February 5 contests—by which time most of the nation will have had a chance to vote. So presumably it's in the interests of Rudy Giuliani and John McCain—the Republican candidates who seem to have the most appeal to independent-leaners—for Hillary Clinton to wrap up the Democratic nomination early.

Here are some other interesting numbers from Rasmussen: Voters are showing the highest level of confidence in some time that we're winning the war against terrorists. I take this as part of a growing realization that we're making progress and achieving some success in Iraq. That's not a story a lot of people in mainstream media want to report, but it appears to be true, and the word may be getting out. It means that the Iraq issue may be reframed by the fall of 2008. In November 2006 the choice seemed to be between stalemate and withdrawal, and most voters seemed to prefer withdrawal. But if the success of the surge continues, and if the three leading Democratic candidates do not retreat from their concession that they may leave troops in Iraq in January 2013, then the choice could be between success and stalemate. Most voters, I think, would prefer success.

Here are some interesting numbers on how Democratic governors (and at least one Republican) have been raising or trying to raise taxes. In this decade, unlike in the 1990s, tax raises haven't seemed to be harmful. Mark Warner, who as governor raised taxes in Virginia, is running in polls for the Senate race far ahead of his predecessor, Jim Gilmore, who as governor cut them. But with tax raises common in Democratic (and some Republican) states, and with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel proposing a big tax increase, perhaps the tax issue will come back again. With the Bush tax cuts expiring in 2010 and the federal estate tax coming back in full force in 2011 unless Congress acts, the election of a Democratic president and Congress means a sure tax increase for many Americans. That hasn't been the case in any election since the 1980s, and maybe not even then: Had Democrats won the presidency and the Congress in 1996 and 2000, they were not pledged to raise taxes, just to hold them where they were. In 2004, the Democrats' chances of winning the presidency and both houses of Congress seemed dim, and in any case the Bush tax cuts were not set to expire soon. In November 2008, they will be.