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November 14, 2011 1:20 PM Feel the Newt-mentum

By Steve Benen

For months, there have been a couple of constants in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. The first is that Mitt Romney, no matter how obvious his success appeared, would be stuck in the low- to mid-20s. The second is that a non-Romney would break into the top tier, only to be replaced by another, then another, and then another.

It was a Romney-Pawlenty race. Then Pawlenty faded and it became a Romney-Bachmann race. When she faltered, we saw a Romney-Perry race. This was replaced with a Romney-Cain race.

And now it appears we have a Romney-Gingrich race. Here’s the new CNN national poll of Republican voters. (In the interests of space, I’m only including candidates with support in the double digits):

1. Mitt Romney: 24% (down two points since October)
2. Newt Gingrich: 22% (up 14 points)
3. Herman Cain: 14% (down nine points)
4. Rick Perry: 12% (down one point)

And here’s the new survey from Public Policy Polling, which was also released this afternoon (again, these are the only candidates to reach double digits):

1. Newt Gingrich: 28% (up 13 points since October)
2. Herman Cain: 25% (down five points)
3. Mitt Romney: 18% (down four points)

And in case anyone’s curious, separate polls from McClatchy and CBS News both show Gingrich’s support on par with Romney’s and/or Cain’s.

So, what can we take away from all of this? Well, for one thing, it’s probably fair to ask how much of Gingrich’s support is genuine, and how much of it is the result of Republican voters turning to him after trying and rejecting every other non-Romney candidate. Of course, either way, we appear to have a new Republican top tier.

For another, Cain’s sharp rise has now ended, undermined both by allegations of sexual harassment and his inability to deal with the charges coherently.

And finally, there’s the fact that Romney, despite being the clear favorite, just can’t figure out how to put some distance between himself and the rest of the Republican field. The Iowa caucuses are seven weeks from tomorrow, and the GOP frontrunner is seeing his support fall a little when he should be consolidating Republican support. Indeed, with Cain embarrassing himself, it stood to reason that some of his up-for-grabs supporters would settle for the former Massachusetts governor. Instead, they moved to the unlikable disgraced former House Speaker.

Romney is running against misfits, clowns, and con men, and Romney still can’t get to 30%. As Jon Chait recently noted, “I don’t see how Republicans could be making this any more plain. They do not want to nominate Mitt Romney.”

If I had to put money on the race, I’d say Romney gets the party’s nod anyway, only because there’s no plausible alternative. But when was the last time the Republican Party went into a general election with a nominee so much of the party simply didn’t like?

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • c u n d gulag on November 14, 2011 1:30 PM:

    "But when was the last time the Republican Party went into a general election with a nominee so much of the party simply didnt like?"

    How about McCain?
    He wasn't too popular.
    And that's why they had to stick him with Palin - to juice the base.

    I still look for Romney/Rubio, or Romney/Ryan.

    'Contrasting asspoe'
    Really, CAPTCHA!

  • hopeless pedant on November 14, 2011 1:32 PM:

    I don't get why virtually no bloggers (including those as smart as Steve) don't realize there is another real alternative - Romney ends up with the most delegates, but short of a majority, and the convention (which does decide the nominee, not the primaries, although of course it is normally pro forma) picks someone who enters the race after the primaries are over.

    It's a real possibility it seems to me.

  • FriscoSF on November 14, 2011 1:33 PM:

    It's called SCRAPING THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL

    Nude Gingrich WILL NOT get the nomination
    Even Tea Buggers are smarter than that
    Li'l Nudie is just trying to jack up his speaking rates

    Our first Deadbeat Dad President ??

    HA ! HA !!

    Goopers: ANYTHING but ROMNEY !!

    Hey !! How about Pee Wee Herman ???

  • r on November 14, 2011 1:34 PM:

    Romney would be so easy to destroy from the right, but none of them can walk and chew gum at the same time.

  • Quaker in a Basement on November 14, 2011 1:40 PM:

    when was the last time the Republican Party went into a general election with a nominee so much of the party simply didnt like?

    If they choose Gingrich, they'll have a nominee that absolutely no one likes.

  • Gus on November 14, 2011 1:50 PM:

    The question is, when it comes down to the election, how many Republicans would rather vote for a black man than a Mormon.

  • PhillyCooke on November 14, 2011 1:51 PM:

    You forgot Romney-Palin & Romney-Christie.

  • g on November 14, 2011 1:53 PM:

    picks someone who enters the race after the primaries are over.

    But who would that be? any candidate fool enough to do this (I'm talking about you, Sarah Palin) would not be the choice of the convention.

    I truly doubt an establishment Republican (JEB! or Christie come to mind) would do well by entering this way. The Obama campaign could spin some serious negatives against such a candidate.

    No, what will probably happen is the Republican establishment will try to crystallize support around Romney, and probably write 2012 off with an Obama second term as a given.

  • g on November 14, 2011 1:55 PM:

    picks someone who enters the race after the primaries are over.

    But who would that be? any candidate fool enough to do this (I'm talking about you, Sarah Palin) would not be the choice of the convention.

    I truly doubt an establishment Republican (JEB! or Christie come to mind) would do well by entering this way. The Obama campaign could spin some serious negatives against such a candidate.

    No, what will probably happen is the Republican establishment will try to crystallize support around Romney, and probably write 2012 off with an Obama second term as a given.

  • DC Mike on November 14, 2011 1:58 PM:

    You're right. With respect to the last two GOP presidents, it wasn't until the end of their terms that the Republicans disliked them almost as much as the rest of us did.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on November 14, 2011 2:06 PM:

    I suspect that no one is more surprised than Newt. He probably assumed by this point e would use the exposure to juice his speaking fees. Like Cain he really has no troops on the ground and no campaign to speak of .
    They are all in the spirit of Sarah Whores of Babble on

  • jheartney on November 14, 2011 2:15 PM:

    Didn't Newt's campaign implode a few weeks back? All the major people staged an exodus? Getting delegates means having a ground organization, something Newt manifestly does not have (neither did Cain, BTW). Not only is this crippling from the standpoint of getting the nomination, it's also a major liability in the general election.

    To those noting that McCain came back from the dead to win the nom in 2008, I'll just mention that the Obama campaign was a massive, well-run machine in state after state, and ended up pasting McCain 365 EV's to 173.

    The teabaggers may not be able to get their heads around this, but the big GOP money certainly does. Gingrich is a trainwreck of a candidate, and will not only give Obama a second term, he'll give the Dems the House and Senate.

  • Tom Marney on November 14, 2011 2:27 PM:

    Uh, Ron Paul, anyone? At this point he's only slightly less batshit insane than the rest of the field. Granted, his distate for war and torture is a stumbling block, but if Republicans can overlook Romney's heresies, maybe they can overlook Paul's, too.

  • mmm on November 14, 2011 2:33 PM:

    Newt's response to an Iranian nuclear bomb was the most ridiculous ever... get rid of their scientists! Then he added, "covertly, of course." I'm sure an Opeation Brain Drain might sound good to the Newtist camp, but really...

  • cmdicely on November 14, 2011 2:38 PM:

    I don't get why virtually no bloggers (including those as smart as Steve) don't realize there is another real alternative - Romney ends up with the most delegates, but short of a majority, and the convention (which does decide the nominee, not the primaries, although of course it is normally pro forma) picks someone who enters the race after the primaries are over.

    It's a real possibility it seems to me.

    Its a lot less of a possibility than it would be if the same dynamic was happening in a contested Democratic national primary, because the Republican primary rules are, by design, much better at creating an artificial majority in delegates.

    But this fact also makes it more likely that with a poor performance in the early primaries against whoever the leading alternative-of-the-moment is (no matter how much they don't seem credible), Romney could fall to the perception of momentum and be crushed entirely. So, while I think Romney is probably the most likely nominee, I'd say whoever is the leading not-Romney candidate when the actual primaries start stands a not-insignificant chance of being nominated.

  • Tom Allen on November 14, 2011 2:50 PM:

    Hey, if Newt gets another run down the aisle for the nomination, that means John McCain can't be far behind!

  • T2 on November 14, 2011 2:51 PM:

    by the end of January, we'll have a real good idea what the GOPers plan on doing. If Romney wins by any margin in the first 2-3 primaries, I think he'll hang on. If he does not win them all and the field is mixed, Big Wigs are going to start talking about a late entry...problem is, it will be too late. They'll have to dump Mitt and select someone by acclamation at the Convention....and the TeaParty delegates will probably make that impossible....basically, the Republicans are screwed (by themselves).

  • rikyrah on November 14, 2011 2:54 PM:

    they straight up hate Willard.]


    and here's the thing about Newt,

    you know all the bad things about his personality...and they still want him.

  • bobbo on November 14, 2011 2:56 PM:

    Maybe Romney can't distinguish himself from "misfits, clowns, and con men" because - well, do I even have to finish the sentence?

  • LL on November 14, 2011 2:59 PM:

    Aside from anything else, Romney so obviously oozes inauthenticity and sheer mendacity (he's a lying schmuck, in other words), it's hard for me to imagine how anyone could vote for him after his performances over the last 4 years. He's an amoral slimeball. Now, that is obviously not a disqualification for high office in this country, but somehow, on top of being an unambiguous amoral slimeball, he's just not likable. The man has all the charisma of a mud-puddle. And that's his big problem. No charisma AT ALL. Hard to get elected to anything without at least a tiny bit of charisma, however bogus. Willard doesn't even have bogus charisma. And that is his big problem. One he cannot expect to ever solve.

  • ottercliff on November 14, 2011 3:11 PM:

    My question: If you believe the theory (as I do) that the popping of each previous Non-Mitt savior's bubble (Bachmann, Trump, Perry, Cain) came from Karl Rove's pea shooter, then will he shoot down Newt or could Newt become the "establishment candidate"?

  • Mimikatz on November 14, 2011 3:43 PM:

    I think the GOP did away with winner-takes-all this cycle so it is no longer as stacked toward getting a winner. Ground troops are needed in primaries. After that it is a matter of cajoling delegates. I can't see anyone but Mitt being good at that.

    This seems to be the final stage of Foxification of the GOP electorate. They are fear driven and reality challenged. Will they take a Mormon over a Muslim? Or not vote? In short, anyone who can get the nomination can't win the general, and anyone who could win the general can't get the nomination..

  • jim filyaw on November 14, 2011 3:57 PM:

    egad--how embarrassing! running even with newt? reminds me of the time dan fielding (night court) got waxed by a dead man.

  • professordarkheart on November 14, 2011 4:37 PM:

    (In the interests of space, I'm only including candidates with support in the double digits)

    BIAS!

  • T2 on November 14, 2011 4:51 PM:

    "But when was the last time the Republican Party went into a general election with a nominee so much of the party simply didn�t like?"
    thats an easy on: in 2008. Everybody hates John McCain, but the other guy was a Mormon.

  • smintheus on November 14, 2011 4:52 PM:

    When was the last time the Republican Party found itself with a frontrunner who's typically described as "disgraced former..."?

  • G.Kerby on November 14, 2011 5:16 PM:

    When was the last time the Republican Party found itself with a frontrunner who's typically described as "disgraced former..."?

    1968 ?

  • Death Panel Truck on November 14, 2011 5:48 PM:

    But when was the last time the Republican Party went into a general election with a nominee so much of the party simply didn�t like?

    You have asked this question twice now. Were you not paying attention in 2008? Republicans didn't like McCain.

    (I'm sick of this Captcha crap. It's completely unnecessary, and annoying as hell.)

  • JW on November 15, 2011 10:05 AM:

    It's winner take-all in the GOP primaries as of April, 2002. I haven't done the math, but have heard it stated that makes a brokered convention extremely unlikely.

    That said, I don't think Romney will grab the brass ring. I'm a ear full-of-grasshoppers type where polling is concerned, and just don't see republican voters rallying to the human weather vane.

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