Thursday, December 01, 2011

Cain's support would go to Gingrich

Public Policy Polling (PPP) has just gone into the field in Florida and Montana, and early indications are that New Gingrich is likely going to have a double-digit lead in both states. The polling firm also says that his support has not peaked.

Significantly, PPP indicates that with Herman Cain perhaps poised to drop out of the race, Gingrich's surge should continue for a while, assuming he doesn't shoot himself in the foot, which is a big assumption.

A key piece of information from their polling is that Cain supporters love Newt and hate Mitt:

Our last national survey found that Gingrich's favorability with Cain voters was 73/21. Meanwhile Romney's was 33/55. That's the same basic trend we've seen in every Republican primary poll we've done in the month of November. On average in 7 polls we've done this month Gingrich's favorability with Cain voters is 69/22. Romney's average is 31/57. In other words Gingrich's net favorability is 73 points better with Cain supporters than Romney's.

This gets us into that all-important second choice dynamic so essential in nomination battles. Not only is Romney stuck at fairly mediocre levels of support, but his opportunity for growth, once lesser candidates either bail out or become less viable, is limited.

Gingrich is coming on anyway, and if Cain goes away Newt will get much of that support.

I know many of us have been beating this point to death for months, but this Republican nomination race is not political business-as-usual. Voter preference does not appear to be motivated by a rational calculation of who can best take on Obama. The level of ideological fervor in this election may mean that many right-wing voters will be incapable of supporting a relative centrist like Romney.

And, after shopping around for months, they could be coming around to Gingrich, a candidate they believe to be consistently on the right who doesn't misspeak every second time he opens his mouth.

Once again, we are seeing evidence that Romney could be in more trouble than most of us thought.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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