Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The GOP: Taking a hard right turn over a cliff

By Richard K. Barry

What the hell. Let's look at a poll that's telling us how well Rick Santorum is doing at the moment. I still can't imagine that Romney will lose the nomination, but recent events sure do have pundits writing articles about brokered conventions and other scenarios that could point to a Romney epic fail.

Yesterday, the Pew Research Center published results that found Santorum in a virtual tie with Romney among Republicans nationally.

Here's a bit of their overview:

Rick Santorum’s support among Tea Party Republicans and white evangelicals is surging, and he now has pulled into a virtual tie with Mitt Romney in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. In polling conducted Feb. 8-12, 30% of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters favor Santorum while 28% favor Romney. As recently as a month ago, Romney held a 31% to 14% advantage over Santorum among all GOP voters. 
Santorum is now the clear favorite of Republican and GOP-leaning voters who agree with the Tea Party, as well as white evangelical Republicans. Currently, 42% of Tea Party Republican voters favor Santorum, compared with just 23% who back Romney. Santorum holds an almost identical advantage among white evangelical Republican voters (41% to 23%).
If you're wondering, Gingrich is at 17% in the poll and Paul at 12%.

No surprise that Santorum's success is being driven by committed conservatives like Tea Party types and white evangelicals. No surprise that this is the group with which Romney will continue to have problems. And no surprise that Gingrich is fading fast, phony bastard that he is.

As long as Romney could sustain the fiction of inevitability, he was fine. Now that he's lost that, it will be harder for him, though I still think he'll get there because of an imbalance of resources if nothing else - and maybe there is nothing else. Thing is that he'll have to spend a lot of that money proving how severely conservative he really is instead of how good a president he might make.

The poll also took a look at how Obama would do against various GOP challengers and found this:
Obama leads Santorum by 10 points among all registered voters (53% to 43%) and his lead over Romney is nearly as large (52% to 44%). Romney ran about even with Obama in November and mid-January. Obama has a larger advantage over Newt Gingrich than over Santorum or Romney: Obama leads the former House speaker by 18 points (57% to 39%). Obama has made gains among independent voters. Today, 51% of independents favor Obama in a matchup against Romney, up from 40% a month ago.
These polls will come and go, but Democrats are clearly having a pretty good week. 

I suppose it's possible that Gingrich can stay in a while longer, but I'm not sure how long. My guess is that his numbers will continue to tank. If he gets out, a showdown between Romney and Santorum could get interesting as polls have suggested that most of Newt's support would go to Santorum.

A long time ago I said that no matter who won the GOP nomination, that candidate would have to tack to the hard right to win the Republican nod and in the process become less and and less acceptable to the mushy middle - those independent voters who tend not to be very ideological. And you can't win without independents.

It wasn't clear exactly how the dynamics would play themselves out. And, in truth, if Romney had been able to lock things up early, he might not have had to go so far to the right. Now Santorum will force his hand and Obama's team couldn't be happier about that.

Not a brilliant analysis or unexpected outcome, but we didn't know how it would happen and maybe now we do.

Things were quiet for a while, but all of a sudden this is fun - if you're not a Republican.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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