Sen. John McCain’s fast sinking presidential campaign reached what could be considered a startling dip with the release of The Rocky Mountain Poll Arizona on Friday. The statewide Arizona poll revealed that Rudy Giuliani has closed to within nine points of the senator in his home state. This marks the first time that McCain has not held a double digit lead over the New York Republican at home. McCain’s leads Giuliani by a margin of 35%-26%, and Mitt Romney only has 11% of the support. The keys to Giuliani’s surge can be found in the way the sampled Republicans in the state answered three questions about the candidates.

Guiliani’s approval ratings have been soaring in the state, while McCain has gone into a slump. Rudy’s personal approval numbers have jumped from 13% in January to 25% in March, while McCain has lost 6% and slid from a 40% rating to a current 34%. The base for Giuliani’s popularity in the poll is retirees and likely primary voters. Retirees favor Giuliani by a 36%-21% margin. Among likely Republican primary voters, Giuliani leads McCain 32%-21%. It seems that McCain’s decision to side with President Bush on the troop surge plan has really hurt his numbers. 49% of those surveyed said that they are less likely to support McCain because of his support of the president’s plan to add more troops to Iraq.  30% of registered Republicans also said that they were less likely to support McCain because he sided with Bush on the troop surge.

What is even more stunning is the steep drop in McCain’s job approval ratings in the state. McCain’s job approval rating was a very incumbent like 73% in January 2005, but by one year later he had fallen to 62%. By January 2007, he had tumbled to a 50% approval rating, and by March of this year he has slipped to 49%.  All total, this is a 24% drop in a little over two years, and a 13% drop in a little over a year. It is clear that those voters who should know McCain best are not happy with his performance. The question that this poll doesn’t answer is why the folks at home have soured on McCain? I think that if McCain is weak in own backyard, he will have an almost impossible time convincing voters in other states that they deserve his support.

 There has to be more to McCain’s slide than his support of Bush on the Iraq war. It is very clear that McCain has struggled even since the media anointed him the 2008 GOP front runner. In 2000, McCain did not have the pressure or expectations on him that he does today. He was the GOP darling of the media in that campaign cycle. He faced very little scrutiny and criticism, because everyone expected George W. Bush to win the nomination. Most of all though it seems that McCain’s desire to be a good soldier and support his president was a huge tactical mistake. Could it be that this error in strategic judgment is so great that it will cost him his party’s nomination?

Rocky Mountain Poll Arizona press release

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at

Jason can also be heard every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at
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