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.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
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.
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 12:03 PM