Mitt Romney: Still more electable than Newt Gingrich?
The Florida primary may come down to this: Will Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich be stronger against Barack Obama? Why Republican voters are tilting toward Gingrich.
It's been nearly two days since Newt Gingrich turned the Republican primary battle on its head with his complete rout of Mitt Romney in South Carolina. And while the fight has physically moved to Florida, which will vote on Jan. 31, what we’re really about to see is a nine-day battle waged on the airwaves and in the press over electability - or who would be stronger against President Obama.Skip to next paragraph
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To most Beltway types, Romney is still the heavy favorite on this point - not only because he has so many advantages in terms of traditional campaign metrics like money and organization, but also because they see Gingrich as a flat-out disaster. It’s been striking to watch the renewed outpouring of criticism GOP strategists have leveled against Newt, calling him utterly unelectable in a general election (see, for example, former John McCain adviser Steve Schmidt’s tirade on MSNBC, which RealClearPolitics helpfully transcribed:
“Not only are we not moving toward a coalescing of support with the establishment of Newt Gingrich, we’re probably moving toward a declaration of war on Newt Gingrich by the Republican establishment. And if Newt Gingrich is able to win the Florida primary, you will see a panic and a meltdown of the Republican establishment that is beyond my ability to articulate in the English language. People will go crazy.”).
The primary reason for this widespread assumption among Beltway elites that Gingrich would be a truly disastrous nominee is that nationally, most voters already know him, and a high percentage don’t like him - and it’s very, very hard to change that kind of profile. To quote Schmidt again: “Newt Gingrich has a 100% name ID, has a 60% national unfavorable number and it’s a number so high that with the 100% name ID it’s impossible to come back from.”
Actually, according to a recent CBS/New York Times poll, Gingrich’s unfavorable rating is at 49 percent, with 17 percent favorable and the rest undecided - which, while not good, is not quite as terrible as Schmidt describes. Still, every recent head-to-head matchup shows Gingrich losing to Obama by a significantly wider margin than Romney, who, according to most polls, tends to run just a few points behind the president (and has even beat him in a few polls).