Matt Towery

 Among Republican candidates, for those who said they vote GOP, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was the clear leader with 20 percent, followed by Giuliani at 16 percent, and McCain and Rice were tied at 10 percent each.

 Of course, predicting a political race four years out is as tough as predicting the exact final score of a Super Bowl tilt. The really big news out of this poll is that there's a lot in a name -- especially if the names are Clinton or Bush. The former first lady appears the one to beat in a battle for the Democratic nomination, and Jeb Bush would be the Republican favorite were he inclined to run. (He is expressing no public interest in the job right now.)

 Dark-horse candidates are by definition nearly impossible to name at this stage. The best example from the 2004 race was, of course, Howard Dean. He went from unknown to a household name overnight, only to see his lack of big-league political experience lead to self-destruction in a matter of days last winter. Someone from near the bottom of the above list could lead the free world in four years -- or at least his or her party's presidential ticket -- or it could be someone now unknown to all but the most veteran political salts.

 Finally, just for fun, let's look at how politics and football mix. In our survey, slightly more Democrats favored Philadelphia in Sunday's Super Bowl, and a few more Republicans rooted for the Patriots. But in both cases, the results were within the margin of error. In other words, these party pigskin preferences were too close to call.

 At this early juncture, naming one's preference for the next president is largely an exercise in name recognition as much as it is a measure of the nation's read on political issues. But that's not to dismiss the results. To the contrary -- name ID now is worth millions of dollars in campaign expenditures as the next presidential election draws closer. With the names at the top of this public survey, one thing is near certain -- plenty of new fireworks await us all.


Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a former National Republican legislator of the year and author of Powerchicks: How Women Will Dominate America.
 
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