Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

More On Romney and the GOP

In an earlier post, I argued that the biggest beneficiary of Huckabee dropping out was Mitt Romney. This argument was based not on my assessment of the popularity of Romney's increasingly contradictory policy positions with Republican voters. Rather, my argument is that in most of their competitive nomination races since WWII, the Republicans have nominated the guy who's turn it is. That is, they have a strong tendency to nominate someone who has run before and usually someone who was the first runner up in the previous nomination round.

There is new poll from CNN/University of New Hampshire of voters in New Hampshire (see link here) that has some interesting results in light of my expectation that Romney is "the guy" that the GOP will ultimately line up behind (however unenthusiastically). You can see CNN's analysis of that poll here.

First, since Huckabee's dropping out, Romney's support has jumped from around 20% (see older results here) to 32%. The next best polling Republican is Ron Paul with only 9% support. So if the primary were held today not only would most voters in New Hampshire be really surprised but Romney would win the primary walking away. He'd get about a third of the vote in a field of about ten candidates.

Second, 87% of the Republicans say that they were really unsure about who they will vote for, so the preferences voiced above could be very unstable. So it would be good to see where Romney stacks up in the 2nd choice and 3rd choice results as well. Romney is also by far the most popular 2nd choice with 20% of Republicans naming him as their second choice (Sarah Palin is the next most popular 2nd choice with 10%). Romney is also the most popular third choice (9%). This suggests to me that as candidates continue to drop out (will Gingrich be next?), Romney will gain more of their supporters than the other candidates who stay in. Romney might have reason to worry if someone else, Pawlenty for example, were closer on the first choice numbers and ahead of him on the 2nd choice numbers. But Romney leads the pack across the board.

Another feature in the poll suggests that the media story about the weakness of the field of Republican candidates isn't telling the whole story (at least as far as Republicans are concerned). While it is true that many New Hampshire Republicans are dissatisfied with their choices (about 43%), most are satisfied (51%) even if they aren't fully decided about which choice they'll make.

Of course, all of this good news for Romney may just be because Romney is from Massachusetts and New Hampshire Republicans like their neighbor. But New Hampshire's early timing makes its results especially important. At the same time, the other early state, Iowa, has older polling that while a bit stale (taken prior to Huckabee dropping out) may tell a similar story, albeit at an earlier stage of development. See the press release here of the Hawkeye Poll from the University of Iowa and top results here. That poll doesn't have a "2nd choice" question. But it does show that Romney's support among people who identify themselves as "not strong Republicans" is only 5% but among self identified "strong republicans" Romney's support is 23% suggesting that more deeply a person identifies with the GOP the more likely they are to support Romney. In contrast, Palin gets about the same amount of support from both weak Republicans and strong Republicans. It's also worth noting that in this poll from Iowa, Romney was first and Huckabee was second and no other candidate was in double digits. Huckabee is out. If I had to guess, I'd guess that the next poll about the situation for Republicans in Iowa will show Romney way out in front.

Governor Pawlenty's announcement that ethanol subsidies should be abolished won't hurt Romney's chances in Iowa either. The national press is full of praise for Pawlenty's courageous reversal of his long time support for ethanol. However, Iowa conservatives I've talked to tend to be both rural and thoroughly convinced that agricultural subsidies like ethanol are a kind of divinely ordained right. The looks on their faces when I've made passing references to the negative consequences of ag subsidies in class rooms or living rooms where the stakes don't matter suggest to me that when these people are confronted by someone actually in a position to do something about ag subsidies, they'll react negatively. Maybe not all of them, but enough of them to reinforce Romney's already existing advantage.

Romney is also far ahead in Nevada (see realclearpolitics here) and his closest rival is Gingrich who had a bad week to put it mildly. That Gingrich's problems are related to his graceless flip flop regarding the individual insurance mandate feature of the so called "Obama care," it will make it hard for Gingrich to attack Romney's Massachusetts health care reform for having the same feature. It's hard for the second place guy to catch up if he makes himself look just like the guy he's trying to catch.

I think this all adds up to Romney winning both Iowa and New Hampshire then going into the Southern Primaries as the best funded Republican with a solid organization and local activists who remember his campaign from 2008. He will also likely have the lion's share of the delegates.

Of course, a lot can happen between now and February. Romney could have a flip flop public relations disaster like Gingrich. Pawlenty could prove me wrong and look like a "leader" with this latest ethanol flip flop. But Pawlenty is about as exciting you'd expect from a moderate from Minnesota. So for now, I'll stay with my expectation that Romney will be the eventual nominee.


Dr. Strangelove said...

Just a quick note... If I read this correctly, new Republican rules should make the IA, NH, and NV contests award delegates proportionally, for the first time.

Raised By Republicans said...

Yes, you read that source correctly. I read another source (which on further inspection is less direct in its wording) to say the opposite. In the end, though the Republican party can't even enforce the dates let alone the delegate selection methods of these contests so if the Iowa Republicans want to have winner-take-all, they can. It would just tick off the national party.

In any event, that one feature is hardly fatal to my overall assessment.

Dr. Strangelove said...

RbR, my apologies--my message was rather too pithy. I didn't mean to imply that the rules change (if true) would have any significant bearing on your analysis. It makes good sense to me. Moreover, Romney has a lot more campaign experience and has his own money to put into the race, if he wants it.

I still think though, that Palin will take the nomination if she chooses to toss her hat into the ring. I confess don't have any analysis here... It's mostly gut. I just feel strongly that she is the only Republican candidate with any excitement factor. She can claim to represent the Tea Party faction too, and having Bachmann in the race helps because she is so out there she makes Palin look reasonable. Her lack of experience on the federal level will be much less of an issue since (except for Bachmann) none of the other candidates have experience on that level either. Most importantly, none have served in the military or can credibly boast of any serious foreign policy credentials. Finally, her dreadful performance with the press last time can really help her... Expectations are so low that all she has to do is put in a credible performance in the first debate, and the pundits will fall all over themselves talking about how great she is.

Oh yes, she has huge negatives, and I feel fairly confident that Obama would trounce her in the general election. But Obama has a good chance of winning no matter what--which is precisely why so few big names are bothering to run. And that leaves the window open for Palin. My two cents :-)

Dr. Strangelove said...

Oops, I forgot about Huntsman. He does have some reasonable foreign policy experience. But as for the rest of his candidacy, perhaps the fact I forgot about him speaks for itself...

Raised By Republicans said...

Dr. S. I didn't think your comment was anything but helpful.

RE: Palin. She's in the polls I reference and by in large is not even in striking distance of Romney (unlike Huckabee and, briefly, Trump - both of whom have dropped out). And given her constant media attention, it's hard to argue that her lagging position in those polls is because people aren't fully considering her possible candidacy or don't know who she is or what she is about. It's also worth noting that when Huckabee (the highest profile social conservative) dropped out, it was Romney's numbers that spiked, not Palin's. That leads me to think that Palin is just stalled at about 10% support in a crowded field and might get up into the teens if someone like Bachman dropped out. But really, I think Sarah jumped the shark when she walked away from the Governorship in Alaska.

Which brings me to Bachman. Bachman's participation in a real problem for Palin. Bachman is from rural Minnesota and is very well known to Iowa's Republican activists. Iowa would otherwise be Palin's best place to shine. I've even heard from reasonably well informed political scientists from Minnesota that Bachman is smarter than she lets on. Basically, they think the crazy outbursts are Bachman's play at imitating Palin (a weird twist on Palin imitating a Minnesota accent).

I think you're right about Romney being boring. But both parties pick the boring guy quite often.

Dr. Strangelove said...

The latest national Gallup poll has Romney at 17% and Palin at 15%, with nearly a quarter of the voters undecided.

Among Republicans, Romney leads in terms of cutting government spending--the issue that Republican voters consistently have listed most commonly as their highest priority. Palin leads on social issues, and they are essentially tied on the others (economy, national security).

Dr. Strangelove said...

Here's the correct link to the main poll results (the other was a link to deeper analysis).

Gallup attributes the apparent lead of Romney and Palin to their high name recognition among Republicans--and little else at this point. They note that Huckabee and Trump were leading last month, for the same reason.

Raised By Republicans said...

This would qualify as being in the "a lot can happen between now and February" column.

Palin being within in striking distance of Romney is a new development - perhaps a lagged response to Huckabee dropping out?

The bad news in that poll for Palin is that her support is concentrated among non-college graduates. That type of voter is far less likely to vote in a primary than are the college graduates - who support Romney at twice the rate they support Palin.

Romney's lead holds among self described conservatives and among self identified Republican partisans (a result that is consistent with the older polls from Iowa that I reported).

It's perhaps counter intuitive that Romney's lead over Palin is slightly bigger among weekly church goers. The conventional wisdom is that Palin is the champion of the religious conservatives and that this same group will be negatively disposed towards Romney because he is Mormon. Romney really surges among Catholics.

If I were a Palinista, I'd be cautious about assuming this surge by Palin represented anything substantive. I think Dr. S is right about how this is being driven largely by name recognition. At this point, only the nerdiest political junkies or the most committed political activists are following this race. Also, I'm starting to see a pattern where we see a series of people assume the role of the "Not Romney" candidate and surge for a while only to fade away leaving Romney to wait for the next one. Palin is one inappropriate statement away from collapsing.

Also, I think Palin would be made mincemeat of if she actually had to face a real challenge from a motivated opponent. Imagine a debate between Sarah Palin and someone stage full of smarter, more experienced Republicans highly motivated to take her down. If she has the guts to actually run (a big question in my mind since she walked away from the governorship), I think she'll start to fade after the first televised debate.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Romney wins NV because of its mormon vote. NH for propinquity to MA. SC is his acid test.

Raised By Republicans said...

He's ahead in Iowa too. But yes, NV and NH are relatively friendly ground for him I'm sure.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Another poll, the first from its organization after Huckabee and Trump departed, has Romney and Palin tied at 16%, consistent with the Gallup survey.

The coalitions are clear however: Romney's strength is in the more moderate voters, Palin does well in the very conservative wing. It looks to me that Romney has a lot more room to grow. The question to me is whether he has enough charisma to turn out the less ardent conservatives in sufficient numbers to overcome an energized conservative base, which one could expect a Palin candidacy would have a fair chance of delivering.

Raised By Republicans said...

Those numbers are a real problem for the GOP. They don't have anyone who, like GW Bush, could appeal to the base and independents. Palin works for the base but she "scares the normals."

In any case, Romney has the inside track to get the nomination and his problem is that the base looks at him and yawns.

I think Palin won't actually run. She's already getting what she wants (money and attention) without subjecting herself to annoying things like interviews, debates and investigative journalism. But if she does run, I think the other Republicans will eat her alive in a debate.