Weekly Reason-Rupe Surveys Archive 2012 January 29-31

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Romney Most Electable Candidate, Yet Gingrich in Statistical Tie Among GOP Voters

Although national polls find Romney the most favored GOP candidate among the general electorate, and the most likely to beat Obama, Gallup finds Gingrich and Romney statistically tied among GOP primary voters. Perhaps this will signficantly change today if Romney succeeds in his predicted 13-point margin win in Florida.

The Electable Mitt Romney

According to the Real Clear Politics’ poll aggregator, averaging national polling numbers from hypothetical match-ups between Obama and the GOP presidential candidates respectively, Romney is the only GOP presidential candidate to come within the margin of error of beating Obama. In contrast, Gingrich is the least likely to beat Obama, losing on average by 12.8 percentage points.

 

A new USA TODAY/Gallup Swing State survey, polling registered voters in the nation’s most competitive battleground states including Florida, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin, finds Romney tying Barack Obama. In contrast, Newt Gingrich trails by 14 percentage points. According to this poll, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum both lose to Obama by only 7 points.

Florida’s primary polls show Romney leading Gingrich, again, by an average of 13 percentage points.

By these measures, we should expect Romney to be clearly winning in polls of national GOP primary voters as they seek out the least objectionable candidate who can also beat President Obama in November.

Gingrich Slides But Maintains Slight Lead Among GOP 

Somehow, however, Gingrich has managed to stay atop of national polls among GOP primary voters, only recently sliding into a statistical tie with Mitt Romney.  A January 24th NBC/WSJ poll found Gingrich leading 37 to 28, a January 26th Gallup poll found Gingrich with 32 percent and Romney with 24 percent, and as of January 29th, Gingrich and Romney were statistically tied with 28 and 27 percent respectively. Newt is sliding, but not sliding as fast as some might have expected.

It may be useful to recap the recent timeline of Newt’s rise and decline:

  • As I explained in an article on Newt’s second surge, the January 16th and 19th South Carolina debates indicate to primary voters that a candidate other than Romney could be electable.
  • Gingrich closes Romney’s 23-percentage point lead in less than a week to win with 40 percent to Romney’s 28 percent in the January 21st South Carolina primary.
  • Immediately after South Carolina, the Florida primary polls flip in Newt’s favor: Romney’s 15 point lead on the 16th turns into a 9 point Gingrich lead by the 22nd.
  • Then the next day, January 23rd, Florida holds its GOP debate and Romney trounces Gingrich. Romney also takes to the stump in Florida town halls aiming to tie Gingrich to the establishment and reminding voters of Gingrich’s failed leadership in the 1990s.
  • By January 26th major GOP establishment players break silence and levy mounting condemnatory charges against Gingrich, including: Elliot Abrams in the National Review, editors at the National Review, R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. in the American Spectator, Ann Coulter, Bob Dole, and Tom Delay to name a few. Their charges echoed the same theme: 'Gingrich is no outsider, but rather an insider just like us, and we can tell you he’s not fit to be President.'

Despite Newt’s decline in Florida and inability to obtain traction among general voters, he maintains his statistical tie with Romney among national GOP primary voters. It may take a definitive loss in Florida today before GOP voters nationwide will be willing to admit Gingrich is not the electable alternative to Mitt Romney they hoped he'd be.