McCain Edges Romney in Florida GOP Bellwether


The Suffolk University Political Research Center, modeling a new election predictor module, shows John McCain (35 percent) leading Mitt Romney (33 percent) by the slimmest of margins in a key Florida Presidential Primary bellwether, Hillsborough County.

The Center’s analysis was made using a new election predictor module based on a number of statistical indices, including statewide polling and bellwether geographic areas, first employed with today’s GOP Primary in Florida.

The results from Hillsborough County, located in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater Metropolitan Statistical Area, almost identically matched the findings from a Suffolk University Florida Republican statewide poll released yesterday, which showed McCain (30 percent) leading Romney (27 percent) by 3 percent. (see attached release)

“At the outset it appears that as Hillsborough goes, so goes the state of Florida,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center.  “If Candidate A gets 35 percent in Hillsborough, Candidate A gets close to 35 percent in the state of Florida.”

The last two times a non-incumbent was on a presidential preference ballot in Florida, this bellwether area mirrored the exact order of finish statewide of the top three vote-getters in each party.

In addition, the first-, second- and third-place finishers of Hillsborough County were within 4 percent of the 1-2-3 finishers statewide from both election cycles.  A brief historical summary follows:

“A cautionary word or two: Past bellwether performance is a guide but not a 100 percent guarantee of future performance,” said Paleologos.  “In a race this close, anything can happen.  New bellwethers oftentimes are created as people migrate, depending on the election cycle, the candidates and local endorsements.”

Hillsborough County includes Plant City, Tampa and Temple Terrace as well as 45 unincorporated communities, 30 of which are census designated and 15 of which are not.

The first-of-its-kind analysis also showed that Rudy Giuliani led all of his rivals among those who had already voted absentee or early in Hillsborough County.  Among those who had already voted, Giuliani (32 percent) led Romney (26 percent), McCain (19 percent), Huckabee (10 percent), Paul (7 percent) and Thompson (7 percent).

“Hillsborough County and indeed, the state of Florida, seems to be a tale of two
elections: one marked by strong Giuliani and Romney support early and tomorrow’s election marked by McCain and Romney.”

On Jan. 8, 2008, the Suffolk University Political Research Center’s New Hampshire Presidential Primary bellwether towns – Kingston and Sandown – predicted a Clinton win in the Democratic Primary, while no other leading indicator in the country had Clinton winning.  The bellwether analysis also was used successfully by the Center in both the 2006 Gubernatorial Democratic Primary and General Elections in Massachusetts.

The Suffolk University bellwether ID interviewed 340 likely Republican voters from Hillsborough County who had decided or already voted for one of the Republican candidates.  A random sample of 3,000 Hillsborough County registered Republican households was selected for the execution of the ID interviews by live telephone call.  For more information, please contact David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, at 781-290-9310.

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