Livni Surging 20 Points Ahead of Mofaz in Race for Kadima Leadership

Findings mean Livni could score an outright first-round victory for the Kadima leadership on September 17.

With less than two weeks to the Kadima primary, a new poll puts Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni 20 percentage points ahead of Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. The poll of party members, conducted by Haaretz and Channel 10 News on Tuesday, indicated 40 percent support for Livni and 20 percent for Mofaz, which means she could score an outright first-round victory for the Kadima leadership on September 17.

If Livni fails to achieve the 40 percent required to win the vote and she and Mofaz hold a second round, she is expected to win with 51 percent of the vote.

The poll, conducted by Dialog and supervised by Professor Camille Fuchs, also found that 28 percent of the voters have not decided yet whom to vote for. If even a few of them vote for Livni, she will win in the first round.

Livni's victory seems almost assured. Her advantage has grown considerably, while Mofaz has weakened. Although he is still seen as the more organized and experienced of the two, it is doubtful this is enough to close the 20 percent gap between them.

Avi Dichter and Meir Sheetrit, the other candidates, are lagging far behind, mustering an 11 percent of the vote together.

In a second election round between Livni and Mofaz, the difference between them remains 20 percent. All Mofaz can hope for is a rerun of the polls fiasco in the Labor primary between Peres and Pertz in November 2005. The polls predicted a victory for Peres but on election day his voters remained at home while Peretz' divisions transported his voters to the polls. Today, too, most of the functionaries and large Kadima faction heads support Mofaz, which could narrow the difference. But the mood is with Livni.

Livni's support in the Arab community is twice as big as Mofaz' - an 11 percent majority among the men and 44 percent among the women (compared to 14 percent who support Mofaz).

Mofaz' campaign seems to have stalled in recent weeks. He attacks Livni a lot, on guru Arthur Finkelstein's instructions, but cannot muster the media's sympathy. He has no allies who are capable of creating an effective media or public campaign for him and now the grass-roots activists also seen to be moving in Livni's direction.

Kadima activists say that Roni Bar-On and Tzachi Hanegbi, two of Livni's staunchest supporters, have managed to swing a number of important field activists to her camp. In addition, the negative reports alleging irregularities in Mofaz' canvassing and dubious appointments may be affecting Kadima's 72,000 voting members.

Dichter and Sheetrit, despite their sorry state in the polls, are each convinced the real vote will be a surprise.

The media flurry around Police Commander Uri Bar-Lev's dismissal certainly did not increase Dichter's chances. But the affair, which could have spelled a media disaster for him, appears to have little effect on his standing. His support dropped from 8 percent two weeks ago to 7 percent. However, a large percentage (43 percent) of the voters, who usually sympathize with him, believe he was wrong in firing Bar-Lev, compared to 17 percent who justify him.