Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 24, 2011

BEFORE THE FIRST PUNCH IS THROWN.... Chris Cillizza takes a look at the latest 2012 polls and notes a result that isn't entirely in line with expectations: the former moderate governor of Massachusetts is doing better than expected with the conservative Republican base.

Mitt Romney is the choice of nearly one in four of those who agree with the tenets of the tea party, according to a new Pew poll, a surprising result that suggests the former Massachusetts governor's support heading into 2012 may be broader than previously assumed.

Among tea party supporters, Romney took 24 percent to 19 percent for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, 15 percent for former House speaker Newt Gingrich and 13 percent for Texas Rep. Ron Paul.... The Pew poll comes less than two weeks after a Washington Post/ABC News survey showed Romney running strong among the party's conservatives; more than seven in 10 Republicans who described themselves as "very" conservative had a favorable opinion of Romney. [...]

The Pew and Post results -- coming so close to one another -- seem to make clear that Romney, who has largely been cast as an establishment pick, has wider reach within the party than first imagined.

Agreed, that's certainly what the data shows at this point, and it's why Romney is generally considered a weak frontrunner -- he's hardly the prohibitive favorite, but as the candidates take their place in the starting blocks, Romney looks ready to lead the field.

But my suggestion for the poll watchers is simple: wait.

Romney has high name recognition, and he's been campaigning for president every day since at least 2007. It stands to reason that he'd out in front before the process gets underway in earnest, when voters aren't engaged and haven't heard much about any of the candidates.

But that's going to change. At this point in 2007, Rudy Giuliani looked very strong as a presidential candidate, right up until voters were told who he is and what his positions are, at which point he went from first to last in record time. When he was riding high, the media concluded that the GOP base cared more about national security than Giuliani's record on social issues, when in reality, the problem was that the voters hadn't heard about Giuliani's record on social issues yet, and once they did, his candidacy was doomed.

Romney's not quite as vulnerable, but the attack ads won't even have to stretch the truth -- he's a former pro-choice governor who supported gay rights and combating climate change, who distanced himself from Reagan. Romney's sole accomplishment served as a blueprint for President Obama's health care policy, considered poison in Republican politics.

Indeed, Public Policy Polling recently asked Republican voters, "Would you be willing to vote for someone who supported a bill at the state level mandating that voters have health insurance for president?" A whopping 61% said they would not.

And guess who that affects?

Those who are surprised right-wing activists are supporting Romney despite his health care policy are assuming those activists know about Romney's health care policy. They don't -- but they will.

Steve Benen 9:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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Comments

Poor Mittens.
Who knew being a reasonable centrist would probably kill you as a Republican candidate for Presdient.

I mean, besides all of us who see what's happened to that party, as it has deevolved into a core of Nihilists and Anarchists, posing as politicians and pundits, ruthlessly savaging everyone and everything that gets in the way of what they want - POWER!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 24, 2011 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

One other thing about Giuliani: he passed up running in the first primaries to wait for Florida. By then people thought he was a joke regardless of his social positions.

Posted by: CarlP on March 24, 2011 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

Let's all give a round of applause to Vermont, they have moved a step closer to a single payer system of health care!

Posted by: joan on March 24, 2011 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

To use realtor-speak, Romney does all the right things, but he does not 'present' well. You have to overlook the desperate, consuming ambition to be President that just radiates out from everything he says and does. The fact that he's taken seriously is an indication of the weakness of the 2012 Republican field.

Posted by: MattF on March 24, 2011 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Poor Mittens,

The last sorta "sane" man in a house of crazy and it won't buy him spit. His Dad was cool though.

Posted by: Darsan54 on March 24, 2011 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Not that it would ever matter in a political party governed by rational thought, but Romney is a Mormon. To the Christianist wing of the Republican Party, this would be maybe one step removed from nominating the Antichrist.

Posted by: Rasputin22 on March 24, 2011 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

But my suggestion for the poll watchers is simple: wait.

I've got a better piece of advice: IGNORE.

Really, these polls are all meaningless crap that predict nothing (other than who the bloggers and pundits will blather about between polls) and distract from real issues, policies and positions.

I will now go back to beating my head against a wall.

Posted by: martin on March 24, 2011 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

I'm certain that Romney's record on dog-care means that he's got the cat vote all tied up.

Too bad for him that cats don't vote.

Posted by: Snarki, child of Loki on March 24, 2011 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

I dunno. It all seems quite logical. But I suspect something might be percolating in the minds of Repubs who have a shred of common sense left (and there's quite a few of them) -- "who can reasonably beat Obama?" might become more important than these other hot button issues. Mitt IS a centrist that might attract some amount of independents, and thinking Republicans might get that. Then again, I probably assume too much in terms of common sense shreds left in given Republican party voters.

Posted by: sweaver on March 24, 2011 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

"seven in 10 Republicans who described themselves as "very" conservative had a favorable opinion of Romney."

Perhaps we need to take a deeper look at what "very conservative" means. Because Romney's previous stances on health care, gays, climate change, certainly are not in agreement with what we think of as the Conservative Right.

Maybe they are all channeling Nixon, a "Conservative" who could not be elected dog catcher in Orange County today.

-Or maybe sweaver is right:"who can reasonably beat Obama?"
When polled, they said, "I like Mitt- but please don't use my name!"

Posted by: DAY on March 24, 2011 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

he cracks me up, the way his past, which he took positions back then because he wanted to be elected, because he's a phony piece of plastic...

is coming back to bite him in the butt

Posted by: rikyrah on March 24, 2011 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

All the presidential horse race bullshit is already in high gear eighteen months before the 'election'. Romney will probably emerge as the corporatists (Koch) choice, but alienate much of the reactionary base when his erstwhile 'moderate' stances get more attention.

His flip-floppery in Massachusetts managed to turn off his support here. The legislature treated him as a joke and a pariah, and he had no real base after his second year as governor. The man stands for only two things: shameless ambition and winning an election.

Obama is a much better campaigner, if just as disingenuous, and the 2012 election, just as the 2006, 2008, 2010 elections, will settle nothing, but will probably inflame several constituencies already more than frustrated with congressional gridlock, and a mostly feckless administration.

But then there is that flood of Koch money that will overwhelm an already corrupt and broken election process. It will be the equivalent of Japan's tsunami on the nuclear power plant. The fallout from 2012 is likely to be widespread toxic waste. Toxic for democracy, that is.

Posted by: rrk1 on March 24, 2011 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Those who are surprised right-wing activists are supporting Romney despite his health care policy are assuming those activists know about Romney's health care policy. They don't -- but they will.

True, but never underestimate the power of magical underwear.

Posted by: josef on March 24, 2011 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

What I'm looking at with the Pew is not Mitt, it's Ron Paul. Paul and Gingrich are close to tied (which can't please Newt) and the fact Paul continues to win straw votes and sit in the upper tier in polls says a lot about the state of the Republicans...why? because Paul isn't a Republican he's a Libertarian. While most nuts calling themselves TeaParty members are simply Republicans, an apparently large % of TeaParty nutso's are actually more aligned with the even stranger ideas of Libertarianism, of which Ron Paul is the standard bearer.
What this means to me, is that once Mitt falls from grace (again) with the hardcore Right, it will be a dog fight and Ron Paul is positioned to be a real spoiler with his very strong hard-core TeaParty support. See, the difference between Paul and, say, Bachman, is that when Paul speaks, he knows which camera to look at.

Posted by: T2 on March 24, 2011 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

This nomination is Mitt's to lose, and if your competition is as weak as it looks now, that shouldn't be even a faint worry. Mitt is going to have a lot of money in his court. He also has a big part of the conservative establishment (NRO, Club for Growth, Drudge & Rush, and Murdoch). They don't care about his apostasies and history. They already own him and he'll play the game according to their script. He's the only guy who can beat Obama, and if the economy weakens instead of strengthens in the next year, he's the next president.

Posted by: walt on March 24, 2011 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

"...if the economy weakens instead of strengthens in the next year..."

Thus explaining the Republican attempts at turning a recovery into a double-dip recession.

Who'da thunk we'd look back fondly on the days of GWB's "make the pie higher" economic plan?

Posted by: MCD on March 24, 2011 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

yes MCD, the Repubs have spent 2.5 years trying to sabotage the recovery so Obama can be beat....why that tactic? Because even they know they have zero quality candidates. But their desire to gamble on the economy double-dipping is most likely going to fail, then they will ask the Evangelical Nut Wing of their party to nominate a Mormon....good luck with that....hello Ron Paul.

Posted by: T2 on March 24, 2011 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Mitt's policy positions are like the weather in Chicago. If you don't like it, wait a day; it'll change.

Posted by: chi res on March 24, 2011 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

And you know who, in 2008, was most loudly proclaiming his amazement that GOP primary voters seemed ready to support Giuliani despite mod/lib social positions? Chris frickin' Cilizza.

As Bill James once wrote in a baseball context, you'd think writers would remember they made the same incorrect argument with a different name the previous time out. But they never do.

Romney resembles Giuliani in another way, one that belies Cilizza's theory: both candidates eschewed any moderation in pursuit of the nomination, seemingly out to present themselves as the guy who could on any given day be the most belligerent Republican out there.

I agree Romney will get the desperation establishmnet backing -- like McCain did in '08 -- but 1) McCain only held on because he was the sole non-far-right option in a crazy group and 2) to judge by '10 (not entirely comparbale, I know) the Tea Party wing appears to have become stronger in its primary-voting influence.

Which is to say, past history that's yielded Dole/both Bushes does argue for Romney getting the nomination, but I'm not sure the GOP can hold that tradition this year. It may be second-Goldwater time.

Posted by: demtom on March 24, 2011 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

T2, the dirty little secret of Evangelical Christians is that they'll clap their hands for whomever their leadership says to. They're not thinkers or theologians. They're tribalists of white skin and Americanism. Jesus is a Nordic God, Reagan is the greatest president in history, and Mitt is a very nice family man. It's not any more complicated than that.

Posted by: walt on March 24, 2011 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

agreed walt, it's just that I don't think their "leadership" feels too comfy with Mitt. The whole Mormon thing flared up in 08 when he was looking solid. I think it will again.

Posted by: T2 on March 24, 2011 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Ya gotta love it. Ron Paul, whose ideology comes closest to what teabagger allegedly believe, comes in DEAD LAST. ROFLMAO.

We all know the truth: There is no connection between what baggers say they believe and who they vote for. They would vote for a child molester if they thought he/she could beat a Democrat.

Posted by: bdop4 on March 24, 2011 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

The bottom line is there are too many ignorant nuts and extremists in the Republican Party to unite the whole party behind Romney. The ignorant nuts and extremists will demand their own candidate. I think we will see a Tea Party Republican candidate and a more traditional Republican candidate and the President will win re-election. They can always put Karl Rove's heart attack on Pay-Per-View and send the money to the RNC for a serious try in 2016.

Posted by: max on March 24, 2011 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, I think sweaver's got it. If Mittens can position himself, or be positioned, as "The One Guy Who Can Possibly Beat That N!%%@r In the White House," all will be forgiven. Because let's face it, that's the guiding "principle" here.

Posted by: Rick Massimo on March 24, 2011 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Pete Townshend had a phrase to describe people like Mitt Romney: Flat, plastic, deaf, dumb and blind.

Posted by: Screamin' Demon on March 24, 2011 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know why everyone's so convinced far-righters will fall in line this time around. Has everyone forgotten Sharon Angle, Christine O'Donnell, whatever the lunatic's name was in Alaska? In the latter going last year, the Tea Party wing won every contested Senate primary except for NH. Had the IL primary been held in the Fall, after the nut-jobs got thier muscle to full strength, Mark Kirk might have lost his attempt, too. And don't forget Rand Paul, who ended up winning comfortably, but had a tougher race than McConnell's boy would have.

Turnout will no doubt be somewhat different in a presidential year, but I'm not sure that'd reverse all these results. I think the Tea Party folk still delude themselves (with media encouragement) that THEY are the reason the GOP came back, and they'll insist on a loud-and-proud soul-mate for the presidential ticket. McCain had to struggle to get the nod in '08 despite pathetic opposition; with all Romney's flaws (utter phoniness the most prominent), I don't think we can assume the race will go his way, however much the Reaalist wing will want it that way.

Posted by: demtom on March 24, 2011 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

Mitt's problem is how to placate all the crazies between now and the nomination. He certainly CAN do it and Republicans all have that authoritarian loving streak in them that (as long as the leader is one of their tribe) lets them swallow ANY amount of insanity and bat-shit insane babbling inconsistency.

If the big money boys say "Mitt's the man" the rest of the herd will grumble and line up -- just as they did for John McCain -- whose "Mavericky" past did NOT stand him in good stead with REAL "Merkins".

But, they gave him the nomination and voted for him and were actually EXCITED by his geriatric campaign.

Mitt Romney will get between 48-49% just for having an (R) before his name. It won't matter what he says or does.

Posted by: Cugel on March 24, 2011 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Romney has high name recognition, and he's been campaigning for president every day since at least 2007. It stands to reason that he'd out in front before the process gets underway in earnest, when voters aren't engaged and haven't heard much about any of the candidates.

Shades of the father. George Romney was the front-runner early in the 1968 campaign. We all know how that turned out.

Posted by: Big River Bandido on March 24, 2011 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

"I don't know why everyone's so convinced far-righters will fall in line this time around. Has everyone forgotten Sharon Angle, Christine O'Donnell, whatever the lunatic's name was in Alaska?"

Well, for one thing, Sharon Angle didn't have $200 million in corporate dollars from the Koch brothers. Mittster will have it if he needs it. And he can raise LITERALLY UNLIMITED corporate funds. A BILLION? What is that if Mittster will cut corporate taxes and institute a flat tax? They stand to gain HUNDREDS of billions in profits while the rest of us stand in bread-lines and go without health care.

For another all the Tea-hadists REALLY care about is defeating the "Kenyan Socialist" and they will all be told (ENDLESSLY) that only MITT can save us from another 4 years of the reign of the ungodly!

Just as in 2008 they will grumble and put aside their feelings and rally around whoever they think is the STRONGEST candidate -- and that means the one with the most money in the Republican party.

Romney/Bachman 2012? Why not?

Posted by: Cugel on March 24, 2011 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with the sentiment that Romney will remain the frontrunner for the Rep. nomination despite his baggage because no one else on the stage seems remotely credible to voters outside the base, and with most of the money behind him, many primary voters will go along with the establishment pick, even if they don't like it.

I think he will have a hard time beating Obama, even if the economy remains problematic, as the midwest is coming to realize that their 2010 flirtation with Republicans was a big mistake, and Romney's overt pandering may not play all that well with swing voters who don't have a vested interest in Republican victory.

The wild card may be the hardcore conservative teabaggers, who
may decide that they've had enough of establishment candidates shoved down their throat, and either refuse to vote for Romney in the general, or even rally behind a far-right "statement" candidate. Even if that ends up being only a small percentage of usually reliable republican voters, it could be the death blow to a
Romney candidacy.

Posted by: Rip on March 24, 2011 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

The thing that strikes me about Romney is that he is in a very similar position to W. His father was a well respected politician with actual accomplishments, and Mitt has been in his shadow his whole life. He naturally resents it that people think that his father is responsible for Mitt's accomplishments and wants to prove himself on his own. So now he has devoted himself to getting what his father never got, the presidency. And I see very little evidence that he is any where near as good a man as his father was. In fact, his blatant pandering proves the opposite.

We had eight years of "I am TOO as good as my father," and look what it got us. We don't need any more.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on March 24, 2011 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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