New York-based political consultant Kieran Mahoney’s survey of probable Republican participants in the 2008 Iowa presidential caucuses showed this support for the “big three” candidates: John McCain, 20.5 percent; Rudy Giuliani, 16.3 percent; Mitt Romney, 3.5 percent. Astonishingly, they all trailed James Gilmore, the former governor of Virginia, who had 31 percent.
How could that be? Because it was not a legitimate survey but a “push poll,” normally a clandestine effort to rig the results by telling respondents negative things about some of the candidates. But Mahoney makes no secret that the voters he sampled were told of liberal deviations by McCain, Giuliani and Romney, as well as true-blue conservatism by Gilmore, who is Mahoney’s client.
Mahoney is trying to prove a point widely accepted in Republican ranks. None of the three front-line candidates is a natural fit for the nation’s right-of-center party. Without question, there is a void. The question is whether Gilmore or anyone else can fill it.
The most commonly mentioned potential void-filler is not Gilmore but Newt Gingrich. A straw poll by the right-wing organization Citizens United of its political contributors showed Gingrich leading with 31 percent (followed by Giuliani at 25 percent, Romney at 10 percent and McCain at 8 percent). But based on his actions as speaker of the House, Gingrich’s conservative record is far from flawless.