Is 10th place ever better than 1st place? It is for George Pataki, as a recent poll showing him in 10th place has far more positives than another recent poll showing him in 1st place. Both a CNN/ORC national poll and a Quinnipiac University New York poll contain good news for Pataki, but the national poll listing him in 10th place has far more positive news for him.
The CNN national poll lists Pataki as 10th among 16 current or expected contenders. The field is extremely tightly packed, with Marco Rubio placing first at 14% and eight more candidates jammed in before Pataki appears with 3%. It’s a pretty low percentage for Pataki, but far better than the “N/A” he received in at least four prior CNN polls that excluded him. Stretched to it’s most negative for Pataki, the +/- 4.5% margin of error could put him at zero (or even below). Stretched to its most positive for him, he could be as high as third, behind only Rubio and Bush. That’s highly unrealistic, but it illustrates the closeness of the field and the lack of certainty in any ranking of the current Republican field. It is realistic, however, to regard Pataki as in the large pack, albeit toward the rear, but in it nonetheless.
Two factors, one sustainable, likely affected Pataki’s improved showing. First, the poll was perfectly timed with his May 28th campaign launch, sampling voters from May 29th to 31st. Second, Pataki has been a regular on cable networks for several months and the most likely impact of those appearances is in this type of national name-recognition polling.
Most critically for Pataki, Fox News, host of the first Republican candidate debate, has announced that it will include the top ten candidates based on five national polls selected by Fox News. Pataki’s 10th place performance in this CNN poll, while likely to have no direct impact on the Fox News decisions in August, puts him where he’ll need to be to make that critical cutoff.
While Pataki revelled in his first place listing, the three term governor should take far less comfort from a recent New York-only poll by Quinnipiac University. Polling the same 16 candidates as the CNN national poll, the New York poll produced a similarly packed outcome with Pataki and Marco Rubio first at 11% each. Jeb Bush followed at 10% and the remaining 13 candidates were squeezed in between “-” and 7%. With a +/- 5.2% margin of error the poll ranking is virtually meaningless, however. First is certainly best, but the former three term New York governor should worry that he does not have any meaningful advantage in his home state. That’s consistent with my anecdotal observations in recent months, as there’s little evidence of any great support for Pataki among New York Republicans. Should he survive until the New York primary (date currently uncertain, but likely March or April) he’ll likely face some well-funded opponents and a stiff challenge at winning his home state.