Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney, the Unloved Frontrunner


Mitt Romney snagged another win in the GOP primary last night, picking up at least 41 of the 54 electoral votes in Illinois. His campaign continues to sell a message of electability, arguing that Romney is the primary contender with the best shot at beating President Obama in the general election.

Relatively speaking, that may be true enough: Romney's chief rival in the polls is Rick Santorum, who seems unlikely to have any serious chance of a victory against Obama in November.And at this point, it's a near certainty that Romney will be the GOP nominee. He'll grind out a primary victory one electoral vote at a time. 

But it remains hard to accept a strong version of the general election electability argument given Romney's long, slow slog toward probable primary victory. Even with recent wins, Romney still won't clinch the nomination for at least another two months, according to The New York Times:

Mr. Romney came here hoping to provide a convincing enough victory to be able to accelerate his move toward directly confronting the president, leaving the intricacies of the delegate fight to his campaign advisers. Yet unless his Republican rivals decide to step aside, Mr. Romney will not be able to move beyond the primary campaign for at least two more months.

Indeed, Romney is a remarkably weak frontrunner. As Newsweek's Andrew Romano noted recently, the former Massachusetts governor is on track to become the least liked major party presidential nominee on the books: 

[Romney] currently boasts the worst primary-season favorable-unfavorable split of any major-party nominee of the last 36 years (at least). There have been roughly 20 polls released in the last two months; only one gives him a positive favorable rating. The rest of the surveys show Romney's unfavorables outstripping his favorables, often by as many as 20 percentage points. On five occasions, his unfavorable rating has topped 50 percent; his favorable rating has fallen into the 20s five times as well. As of March 12, when the last of these polls was released, Romney was averaging 49.6 percent unfavorable to 37.6 percent favorable—a gap of 11.7 points.

The depth and duration of Romney's favorability dip is unprecedented, even during a heated primary battle. More often than not, the eventual winner enjoys positive favorable ratings the March-April before the election. Carter was at 74 percent favorable on March 27, 1976; Reagan was at 41 percent favorable to 34 percent unfavorable on April 18, 1980; George W. Bush was at 63 percent favorable to 32 percent unfavorable on March 10, 2000 (a split that was unchanged a month-and-a-half later); and over the month of March 2008, Obama's favorable rating outstripped his unfavorable rating by an average of 19 percentage points.

Romney isn't only having trouble selling the base on his candidacy. He's also having trouble generating enthusiasm from already elected GOP legislators and other party leaders, reports Politico:

On Thursday morning, Romney's biggest supporters on Capitol Hill are supposed to come out with their best donors to help the GOP front-runner deepen his cash base. But the RSVP list is looking thin.

Even though the fundraiser is expected to raise $400,000, the figure organizers say is the goal, only 27 of the nearly 80 lawmakers that endorsed Romney had signed on to raise money just two weeks ahead of the event, according a document obtained by POLITICO.

The response reflects an uncomfortable reality for Romney: some Republicans are willing to pony up cash to help him beat President Barack Obama, but that doesn't mean he's widely loved.

One of Romney's biggest problems has always been that it's difficult to imagine many Republicans picking him as their first choice for the nomination. Even many those who are most supportive of him would probably have preferred one of the white knight candidates who did not run. As a result, Romney was always destined to be a second-best pick, a backup plan when nothing else will work. Right now, the Republican party is letting out a long, frustrated sigh as it prepares to settle for the candidate it has rather than a candidate it wants. 

NEXT: David Harsanyi on Why Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats Hate Paul Ryan's Budget

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  1. Mitt Romney, the Unloved Frontrunner

    Bravo, GOP! Way to pick a winner!

    Who’s on the Libertarian ticket again?

  2. If you’re not cynical at this point, you’re not paying attention.

    1. Yep. Anybody know a good magician? We really need somebody to pull a rabbit out of his hat!

        1. One’s a gay wizard and the other is a Shakespearian actor?

  3. The thing that bothers me about the “electability” argument is how fucking circular it is.

    “I can’t believe you voted for Romney. Don’t you agree more with [ANY OTHER CANDIDATE]?”

    “Yeah, he’s pretty great, but I can’t vote for him because no one’s voting for him, thus proving that no one will vote for him. Romney is the kind of guy people are voting for, so we have to vote for him so he can get more votes.”

    1. Not so remarkable when you consider the dynamics of any group decision.

  4. I’m reading Massie’s Dreadnought and ran across something I didn’t know: A major English painter in the 18th century was a guy named George Romney. Willard is related to him, though I’m not sure that he’s a direct descendant. Apropos of absolutely nothing, of course.

    1. I don’t know who the Willard guy is that you mention, but is Mittens Romney related to George?

      1. He’s neither. He’s an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill.

        1. “Father? Yes, son? I want to kill you.”

          1. A song based on the young Willard Romney.

            1. Mormons ritually sacrifice oxen, right?

              1. Must be, why else would they have moved out west?

                1. “Ride the snake…he’s old, and his skin is cold ”


        2. The horror!

    2. His books on Peter and Catherine (the Greats) are good as well.

      1. I own the one on Peter the Great (excellent) and just put a hold on the new one on Catherine.

        1. I’ll have to pick up Dreadnought, and maybe Castles of Steel as well.

  5. It’s not like a Romney candidacy will spur independents and Dems to crawl over broken glass to re-elect Obama.

    The Republican base will crawl over anything and everything to vote for anyone who isn’t Obama.

    Romney should have it in the bag despite the inevitability of a Nauvoo-intensity anti-Mormon attack.

    1. Obama is not losing.

      1. Sure he is. Why the hell would anyone vote for him?

        1. To strike a blow against the christfags and rednecks!

          1. Yeah, that’s about all the votes he’s going to get, from the loons voting against mostly nonexistent boogeymen.

            Crappy economy, out-of-control government spending, not-ready-for-prime-time events happening over and over again, continuation of virtually every Bush policy that most of us don’t like. . .yeah, it’s a compelling vote. Especially against a “moderate” who only really scares (rightfully so) people like us.

            1. Obama could stomp gay kittens to death on TV and hold onto the base. But I’m not sure Romney has the charisma or Santorum the sanity to sway enough non-base voters to win.

              I predict that no matter who wins, it will be the lowest percentage turnout in decades.

              1. The base–the true believers–is not a large number, of course. Thank God. And that goes for the fanatics on the right as well.

            2. You’re living in the bubble. Get some fresh air.

              Lizard brain anti-Obama rage may well propel him to a loss, but that’s the only thing that can, and I’m just not sure your fellow bubble dwellers have the numbers for a presidential year.

            3. …If Romney wins, wouldn’t that have made you and other Obama supporters the bubble dwellers?

              It’s like the opposite of the electability argument. “Only crazies think that guy will win, which can only happen if there are enough crazies who think he will win.”

        2. Ask the UAW or Wall Street. They vote for him for the same reason people vote for Willard. What can you give me?

  6. No one bothers to mention that “electability” is a completely subjective projection.

    How electable is a goof who goes around clamoring for “fundamentally changing America” and how spreading the wealth around is good for everybody?

    Subjectively, Romney has the appearance of a man who looks presidential (e.g. cut of his jib and all), but then he shows everyone how poor his political instincts are.

    This election won’t come down to electability, it’ll come down to the perception of Obama being a nice enough guy and whether or not people feel gas is too high by the middle of October.

  7. If it wasn’t for the AGW going on right now, it would have been the winter of our discontent. No candidate is going to be good enough now that everyone is on guard from our previous half-assed, brainless choice.

  8. Saw some poll that only 36% of Illini GOP voters said that electability was their highest priority in choosing a candidate.

    That level of stupid is inexcusable.

    1. Eh. A more charitable reading would be that they understand that nobody is beating Obama, so voting becomes a sort of declarative affirmation of ROMNIACs charisma and breathtakingly innovative agenda.

      1. That is a level of charity I cannot support as a greedy libertarian.

    2. honestly, it will take a insolvency before they change their ways. Until the government is completely bankrupt, they will continue voting for big spenders.

  9. “settle for the candidate it has rather than a candidate it wants.”

    And who would be the candidate it wants? Have Rove and Rollins and the other king-makers settled on someone?

  10. Obama will get four more years. And then maybe additional terms after that.

    1. When Flying Killer Robots get the vote, they will certainly want to support the candidate who gave them so much support.

    2. In Madden 2012 if you win the Super Bowl they have this little cut scene where your team goes to the White House and present a jersey to President Obama.

      My Franchise just entered 2018 and won the Super Bowl. They gave a jersey to President Obama.

      I worry that EA might acutally have some sort of vision of a terrifying future, and not just lazy writers and designers who couldn’t see an obvious problem in having a game mode that allows 25 years of game play, include a reference to a politician who was in a rather strictly term-limited position.


    1. Awkward. Everyone knows the Jets are the most secular of all the NFL teams, aside from Rhode Island Christpunchers.

      1. Tim can save the modern-day Sodom. Or is it the modern-day Gomorrah? I can’t remember.

        Not a bad landing place, though Philly probably would’ve been better for Tebow.

        1. Sodomorrah, where the sewers run deep with cocaine-laced urine and the bums are fed organic quinoa. We told her not to look back as the city was judged, but she was turned in a pillar of pretzel salt.

          1. They are not only going to love Tim, they’ll crave him.

            1. He’s full of electrolytes.

      2. I’m sure he and Cromartie will be BFF

        1. Bigger news: I just read that Sean Payton has been suspended for a full season. No details, so I don’t know if this is true or not. Gregg Williams indefinitely suspended.

          I heard some scuttlebutt that what they were doing went beyond mere bounties and that (as reported nationally) they’d been told to knock it off.


          1. That’s how you throw down a suspension

          2. Williams needs to be banned to send the message. A year off for Payton seems reasonable.

            1. I’m not judging, merely reporting.

          3. From an article on Fox News

            Punishment for any Saints players involved will be determined later, because the league is still reviewing the case with the NFL Players Association.

            What do ya do when it’s union-on-union crime?

            1. Who’s in tighter with their rep?

    2. Hahahaha YES, I was hoping the Jets could muster up something more retarded than making Sanchez the 7th highest paid QB in the league. Looking forward to reading about that locker room on regular basis.

  12. They’re called delegates, Peter.

    Electoral votes come in the general election, and Romney will be getting 0 from Illinois.

    1. Why should we trust analysis from someone who can’t be bothered to use basic terminology correctly?

  13. State by State, Republicans are voting for the notion that they’d rather have Obama than Ron Paul.

    Romney *might* win, but I’m doubting it more and more. Six months ago, I said that there was NO WAY Obama could possibly get re-elected.

    Today, I don’t think there’s any way he won’t.

    1. Romney *might* win, but I’m doubting it more and more. Six months ago, I said that there was NO WAY Obama could possibly get re-elected.

      So, what you’re saying is that you are or have been absolutely certain about the election outcome, and there is a 100% chance that one of your thoughts is objectively wrong?

      And we are supposed to pay attention to your prognostications now because …?

  14. Randomly saw this, and figured here was as good a place as any to post it:

    A Voter’s Life Cycle

  15. Vote for which player will have a season ending injury…..n2013cover

  16. “Mitt Romney: He’s the blandiest!!”

  17. Doesn’t it occur to analysts here that frequently in politics the choice is between the acceptable and the unacceptable, rather than good & bad?

    1. Consider mass market American beers. They’re there because of their broad acceptability. They don’t aim to be anyone’s favorite.

  18. Mitt is like George in that old ‘Seinfeld’ episode where he figures if he doesn’t give his girlfriend a chance to break up with him, he’ll grow on her. The ‘…by Mennen’ Plan.

    Didn’t work for George, ain’t gonna work for Mitt.

    1. It did work for George, until he got caught stealing her clock.

      Guard your clocks, Americans!

  19. I think the fact that Romney is not doing well in the primaries relates to the fact that he doesn’t attract the Republican base (nor do any of the other candidates running).

    That has very little to do with how he’ll do in the general when matched up against Obama, where independents are what matter most. As long as the base seriously want Obama out of power, they’ll show up and vote for the nominee. As long as Romney keeps in line with the center, he should win the independents that have soured on Obama and would never embrace a Santorum type.

    1. Exactly. And the GOP base hates Obama enough to turn out for Romney in the general.

    2. Romney doing well w/ Independents seems to make sense until you go state by state and realize he does poorly w/ Inds in States he needs and well w/ Inds in Blue States he can’t win…for example in a poll released Wed (don’t feel like looking for the link) he was trailing Obama by eight points in VA and losing Independents to him.

      When you look at the spectacular failure of the Governor of OH’s anti-union bill you get some sense of how easy it’s going to be to depict him as a Wall St parasite in States like OH PA Wisconsin etc.

      His scorched earth campaign has also alienated a lot of conservatives from him personally, so it’s not just his liberalism. I expect G. Johnson to be promoted by the MSM too because they’ll want to help Obama and 2-3% of the vote is a realistic goal as a protest vote.

      Romney’s got maybe a 40% chance of victory (IMO). And defeat couldn’t happen to a nicer robot.

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