Rick Santorum Becomes Eleventh Candidate To Lead GOP In Polls With Mitt Romney Severely Facing Problems

Although the conventional wisdom has been that Mitt Romney is the probable Republican nominee, he is certainly having a hard time establishing himself as a front runner. Before today’s poll came out, Nate Silver listed ten previous front-runners  in alphabetical order, including some Republicans who led in the polls without being a declared candidate: Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Donald Trump. Today, Public Policy Polling makes Rick Santorum the eleventh. Santorum leads at 38 percent. Romney trails at 23 percent, with Gingrich at 17 percent and Ron Paul at 13 percent.

Rick Santorum does even better if he does not have to divide he conservative vote with Newt Gingrich. If Gingrich were to drop out, the poll shows that 58 percent of his supporters would go to Santorum. In a such a three way race, Santorum get to 50 percent, while Romney would be at 28 percent and Paul at 15 percent.

Leadership in the GOP race has not meant very much to date, but falling behind at this stage does create problems for Romney. He might go negative against Santorum as he did against Gingrich, but his negative ads are starting to backfire. Some suggest that instead of going negative against Santorum, Romney must convert to a positive campaign. I’m not sure how a man who lacks any core beliefs or convictions can do this.  His strongest pitch is that he can make up the biggest lies about Barack Obama.

The Maine caucuses conclude tonight with a two-man race between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. There is speculation that Paul might be able to pull an upset victory. If you cannot beat a crackpot like Ron Paul, it is hard to see victory for the nomination as inevitable.

There’s another potential embarrassment for Romney. Public Policy Polling is also seeing the start of a surge for Santorum in Michigan. A loss in Michigan would be devastating to Romney, both for losing his home state and because of reinforcing Santorum’s dominance over Romney in the Midwest. Perhaps Romney will try to flip-flop on having been born and raised in Michigan. Would Mitt Romney’s birth certificate then become an issue?

CPAC is also conducting their straw poll. To paraphrase Jay Leno, Romney is promising to change his views to whatever views CPAC members desire. Romney pandered before them, claiming to be “severely conservative.” The word severe might sound out of place here, unless you see it as an honest admission from Romney, such as “I am severely insane” or, at very least, “I am severely out of touch with the voters of this country.”

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The Impact of the Iowa Caucus

The 2012 Republican Iowa caucus had far less impact on the race than the 2004 and 2008 Democratic races which propelled John Kerry and Barack Obama to victories in their party. The biggest question is whether we are seeing a repeat of the 2008 Republican caucus, with Rick Santorum playing the part of Mike Huckabee. Santorum benefited from being the last non-Romney candidate standing, surging with too little time for media scrutiny to harm his campaign. His eight vote loss to Mitt Romney might be analogous to Mike Huckabee’s win if it turns out to be an isolated win for a social conservatives. There is an outside chance that Santorum might capitalize upon this win to become a strong enough anti-Romney candidate to pull an upset. If conservatism was really a small-government movement a supporter of big-government such as Santorum would have no chance, but deep down many Republicans must realize their small government rhetoric is all talk. Even the Tea Party members (who have always been dominated by social conservatives) gave Santorum support.

The biggest difference between 2008 and this year is the desire of conservatives to prevent a replay of 2008 and allow someone they see as more moderate win the nomination. Newt Gingrich now wants an anti-Romney alliance with Santorum, but this looks a lot like a losing candidate trying to remain relevant. Gingrich might destroy Romney, and in the process destroy the GOPs chances at winning the general election. It is about time Gingrich does something useful.

Meanwhile conservative leaders are meeting in Texas to attempt to find a consensus conservative candidate. Good luck finding someone who adheres to the conservative line on most issues and doesn’t come across as bat-shit crazy to moderate and independent voters in a general election.

The biggest loser was obviously Michele Bachmann who dropped out of the race. Rick Perry almost left the race. As he has been raising money better than he has been debating, he might as well remain in the race. As volatile as this race has been, he could still maintain hope of becoming the surviving anti-Romney candidate down the road.

If measuring against expectations, Ron Paul also turned out to be a loser. After appearing to have a chance to win, or at least come in a close second, his third place left him virtually forgotten behind the close Romney-Santorum battle. Besides, there are few states where Paul has a chance to pick up many votes in a Republican primary.

Overall it was an unimpressive night for Republicans, who suffered from low turn-out, and for Mitt Romney. Romney spent years and millions of dollars to show that he could not appeal to any more voters than four years ago. Derek Thompson calculated how much each candidate spent per vote. Rick Perry spent the most per vote at $478.40.  Mitt Romney spent $154.90, Ron Paul  $103.30, Newt Gingrich  $89.84, Rick Santorum  $20.50, and Michele Bachmann spent $3.95 per vote. Santorum clearly got the most for his money.

It seemed that there were far more people tweeting about the caucus last night than participating. Some say it is unfair that such a small number of people could potentially choose our president. That is no where as bad as the 2000 election when the election was decided by nine people on the Supreme Court.

 

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The Rick Perry Nightmare

Rick Perry has jumped into the lead in the GOP nomination battle. Walter Shapiro points out that Rick Perry is a liberal’s worst nightmare:

Perry is not only a presidential candidate, but also a cowboy-booted sociological experiment. It is almost as if Perry’s political persona was constructed by bundling together all the fears and phantoms in the left-wing anxiety closet. Since the hysteria of the 1950s Red Scare, no Republican figure has matched Perry in his God-given ability to give liberals the heebie-jeebies. Others can rival the governor’s disdain for academic achievement (Palin), his cross-on-the-sleeve religiosity (Michele Bachmann and Mike Huckabee), and his antipathy to Social Security and Medicare (Paul Ryan and Barry Goldwater). But never before has a top-tier presidential candidate embodied the whole lethal package—and more:

From there, Shapiro discussed five specific areas:

  1. Anti-Intellectualism
  2. The God Card
  3. The Living Constitution in which “Perry stands out for his creative cut-and-paste approach to the Constitution.”
  4. Pistol-Packing President
  5. Daring to Call It Treason such as “Perry’s claim that Ben Bernanke would be ‘almost treasonous‘ if he persisted in loosening monetary policy to ward off a double-dip recession.”

Shapiro also referred to other views of Perry, such as the “theory of Dave Mann, editor of the Texas Observer, that Perry’s only governing ideology is ‘crony capitalism.'”

This description of Perry should not only be considered nightmares for liberals. Perry should be nightmares for any thinking American.  There is hope that Americans will see how far Perry’s views are from mainstream American values since, as Greg Sargent discussed, his views are out there in black and white. I recently noted how Perry’s campaign is embarrassed by Perry’s writings which oppose Social Security. His latest embarrassment is Perry’s comparison of homosexuality to alcoholism in a 2008 book. With the number of extremist views present in his book, Rick Perry should even be a nightmare for any Republicans who realize that they have to appeal beyond the far right in order to win.

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Huckabee’s Hard Drive

Mother Jones responded to Mike Huckabee’s denial that a hard drive with his records as governor have been destroyed. Maybe Rose Mary Woods erased the hard drive.

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Small Signs of Republicans Rejecting The Extremes

The major problem with the Republican Party is that it has been taken over by far right extremists, but there are two hopeful signs today that some are rejecting the extremes.

The first is that Sarah Palin, the major example of both the extremism of the GOP and of its disdain for intelligence and reason, is declining in popularity among Republicans. A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that Palin’s popularity has fallen to a new low:

For the first time in Post-ABC News polling, fewer than six in 10 Republicans and GOP-leaning independents see Palin in a favorable light, down from a stratospheric 88 percent in the days after the 2008 Republican National Convention and 70 percent as recently as October.

In one sense, the poll still finds Palin near the top of a list of eight potential contenders for the GOP nomination. The former vice presidential candidate scores a 58 percent favorable rating, close to the 61 percent for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and 60 percent for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, and better than the 55 percent that onetime House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) received.

But Palin’s unfavorable numbers are significantly higher than they are for any of these possible competitors. Fully 37 percent of all Republicans and GOP-leaning independents now hold a negative view of her, a new high.

In another first, fewer than 50 percent of Republican-leaning independents — 47 percent — hold favorable views of Palin.

I would hope this is a sign of the rejection of Palin’s policy positions and of the authoritarian right, but much of the opposition to Palin is simply a rejection of her personal ignorance and incompetence.

Findings such as this, along with criticism of Palin by many conservatives, has increased doubt about Palin’s ability to win the Republican nomination in 2012. It is far too early to make any predictions regarding how such a primary contest will play out. An early win in Iowa, where social conservatives dominate the Republican Party, could suddenly make her the front runner and possibly give her a victory similar to John Kerry’s victory in the 2004 Democratic primary race. Palin could also conceivably win the nomination by being first or second in many states, picking up a larger block of candidates than anyone else in a divided race. While it is premature to write off her chances of winning the Republican nomination, Palin is no Ronald Reagan and her chances of ever winning in a national race is extremely remote.

Meanwhile Politico reports that some “Republican House members are pushing back against conservative deficit hawks who are pushing for endlessly deep spending cuts, saying the right wing of the party is creating unnecessary divisions for the GOP majority.” A good sign, but I’m still waiting for the day when more Republicans push back against the growing tendency of Republicans to support increased government interference in the private lives of individuals and for a day when more Republicans push back against the right wing’s rejection of knowledge, reason, and science.

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Quote of the Day

“I’m upset that friend of the show Mike Huckabee criticized Natalie Portman for having a child out of wedlock. Listen, I’m no fan of unwed mothers either, but this is Natalie Portman we’re talking about. That unborn child is Luke Skywalker.” –Stephen Colbert

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Quote of the Day

“Republican Presidential hopeful Mike Hucka-BS is attacking actress Natalie Portman for getting pregnant without being married. It could get a little awkward if he runs into Sarah and Bristol Palin at Fox News.” –Jay Leno

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Sarah Palin’s Alaska Hates Palin, While Tax Compromise Has Not Hurt Obama Among Democrats

Public Policy Polling found that in the first nine states they polled, all had an unfavorable view of Sarah Palin. In addition, they found that she  has serious problems among Republicans. The next state to be polled was Alaska, but even this didn’t help Palin:

It’s a well known fact that Sarah Palin is the most unpopular major political figure in the country…one thing that may be less well known is that one of the states where voters have the dimmest view of her is her own home state of Alaska.

We’ve polled Palin’s favorability in ten states over the last couple months. In Alaska just 33% of voters have a favorable opinion of her to 58% with a negative one. The only place where fewer voters see her positively than her own home state is dark blue Massachusetts…

Palin’s unpopularity in Alaska is an interesting sidebar but ultimately pretty irrelevant to a possible 2012 Presidential bid. What’s more relevant is that a majority of voters in every single state we have polled so far on the 2012 race has an unfavorable opinion of her. And her average favorability in the Bush/Obama states of Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia that are most likely essential to Republican chances of retaking the White House is 36/56. Democrats can only hope…

While far too early to predict the 2012 nominee, a CNN/Opinion Research poll also shows trouble for Palin:

In the battle for the GOP presidential nomination, the survey suggests Palin may have some work to do if she throws her hat in the ring. Only 49 percent of Republicans say that they are likely to support Sen. John McCain’s running mate in 2008 for the Republican nomination in 2012.

“That’s a huge 18-point drop since December of 2008, when two-thirds of GOPers said they were likely to support Palin. It also puts her well behind potential rivals Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, and a bit behind Newt Gingrich as well,” adds Holland.

The poll also shows how meaningless recent talk of a challenger to Obama from the left is. Regardless of the merits of the act, I had predicted that the tax compromise would  be a huge win politically for Obama. The CNN/Opinion Research poll shows not only that the tax compromise didn’t hurt Obama, but that the number of Democrats who support a candidate other than Obama is declining:

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Tuesday, 78 percent of Democrats questioned in the poll say they want to see Obama at the top of their party’s ticket in 2012, with only 19 percent saying they would prefer someone else as the Democratic presidential nominee. The 19 percent figure is the lowest figure since March, when the question was first asked.

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Problems for Romney and Palin While Obama Rebounds

The 2012 Republican primary race could be an interesting one as there are no clear front runners. All the major candidates have major negatives when going before the entire electorate, and some have significant problems even in the GOP. A new Public Policy Polling survey comes as no surprise in showing that Mitt Romney does the worst of the candidates they polled among conservatives. He comes in last at 14% behind Palin (22%) , Huckabee (21%) , and Gingrich (17%)  in their polling of who conservatives prefer.

While Palin leads in this survey, earlier this month Public Policy Polling showed Palin’s Republican problem. There are plenty of Republicans who like Palin but they survey identified this problem:  “It’s that a lot of the Republicans who don’t like her- in contrast to the Republicans who don’t like Huckabee, Gingrich, or Romney- aren’t willing to hold their nose and vote for her in the general election.”

Both of these polls show what we already suspected–conservatives don’t like Romney and Palin would have serious problems in a general election with even many Republicans defecting to Obama. It’s too early to say if this is part of a trend, but the Republicans might have an even more difficult time if Obama continues to improve in the polls. Politico, perhaps prematurely, reports on Obama Rebounding. This is based upon  a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll which shows that 55 percent of Americans believe the countrywould head in the right direction under policies proposed by Obama. This is up from 49 percent in January, but still below 63 percent which believed this in May, 2009. His approval and disapproval are tied at 48 percent, improved from a disapproval rating of 56 percent in September.

Obama continues to receive more support than members of Congress of either party. Republicans come out the worst, despite their recent victories.The survey found that 44 percent of Americans believe Republican  policies would lead the country in the right direction compared to 51 percent who believe their policies would move us in the wrong direction. Policies of Congressional Democrats were supported by 48 percent.

The next two years could work to Obama’s advantage. Polls show that most voters prefer Democratic policies, even if they did not realize they were the Democratic positions. If Obama manages to work out decent compromises with Republicans and provide effective government for two years, most voters will support him. If it turns into battles over policy, actually seeing a contrast between Obama’s positions and those of the Republicans should also gain him more support–provided he doesn’t make any other major blunders such as going back on his primary opposition to the individual mandate. On most issues, an outright battle between the GOP House and Obama could lead to independents and moderates turning out for Obama in 2012 in even greater numbers than in 2008.

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Michigan May Have Gone Red in 2010, But It Remains Solidly Pro-Obama

I’ve thought it to be somewhat ironic that, after saving the auto industry, Barack Obama saw his party get blown out in this year’s election. Of course, besides the bad economy, that might partially be because Michigan Democrats waged an awful campaign, concentrating on Willie Horton type ads and attacks on governor-elect Rick Snyder for outsourcing while at Gateway.

It has also been a big question as to how much the 2010 election can be taken as predictive of  the 2012 election–with history suggesting no meaningful predictive value. A Public Policy Polling survey from Michigan shows that Obama leads most Republicans by double digits. The only exception is Mitt Romney, son of former governor George Romney, who manages to stay within four points due to his ties to the state. My bet is that once Michigan voters realize Mitt Romney is no George Romney this gap will widen.

Compared to the Republican field Obama’s numbers look stratospheric. Only Romney is viewed favorably by a plurality of voters in the state, with 39% holding a favorable opinion to 37% with an unfavorable one. Beyond him the GOP field ranges from slightly unpopular (Mike Huckabee’s 37/40 favorability) to very unpopular (Newt Gingrich’s 28/50), to extremely unpopular (Sarah Palin’s 34/60). What might be most striking for the Republicans beyond Romney is their numbers with independents. Huckabee’s net favorability with them is -14 (29/43), Gingrich’s is -39 (20/59), and Palin’s is -40 (28/68)

In addition to leading the GOP candidates in a hypothetical race, Obama has an approval rating of 50% and is supported by a plurality of independents 47 percent to 44 percent.

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