Political Animal


November 07, 2011 3:35 PM GOP frontrunner still can’t consolidate support

By Steve Benen

The new national Gallup poll shows where the race for the Republican presidential nomination currently stands.

1. Mitt Romney: 21% (up one point from October)
1. Herman Cain: 21% (up three points)
3. Newt Gingrich: 12% (up five points)
4. Rick Perry: 11% (down four points)
5. Ron Paul: 8% (no change)
6. Michele Bachmann: 3% (down two points)
7. Rick Santorum: 2% (down one point)
8. Jon Huntsman: 1% (down one point)

The development that will get the headlines, obviously, is the fact that Cain has caught up to Romney at the national level, and Gingrich’s recent bump that’s pushed Perry to fourth place.

But what I still find remarkable is Romney’s inability to put some distance between himself and the rest of the Republican field. The Iowa caucuses are, after all, eight weeks from tomorrow, and the presumptive nominee, the man Democrats simply assume will get the GOP nod, finds himself tied with a strange, inexperienced man, who doesn’t understand government or current events, and who’s facing credible allegations of sexual harassment.

Remember, in nearly every instance since 1959, by this point in the race, the Republican frontrunner enjoyed support of at least 41% before going on to win the party’s nomination. Romney hasn’t even been able to reach 30% in any Gallup poll this year — and his support is actually lower now than it was over summer.

He’s running against misfits, clowns, and con men, and Romney’s still stuck at 21%.

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.”

To be sure, the smart money says they’re likely to nominate him anyway, because there’s no one else worthy of the nod. 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?

As for the next tier, I don’t expect Gingrich’s little uptick to last, in large part because he simply lacks the resources, campaign structure, and work ethic to advance. Perry, meanwhile, actually has some money in the bank, and still has a chance to see his support grow.

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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  • Ned on November 07, 2011 3:41 PM:

    They're going to flush them all and bring in Jeb Bush or some other pretender during the convention.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on November 07, 2011 3:46 PM:

    Jon Huntsman: 1% That to me is the real story.
    The one not insane candidate at 1%
    It's a Faux Faux Faux Faux world.
    Lied to so long up is down down is up.
    Thank you Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes for destroying this country with your poison.

  • Mitch on November 07, 2011 3:47 PM:

    @ Ned

    Sometimes I think the GOP is really stupid, but I doubt they are that stupid. It's way too soon for another Bush, and certainly they know that nominating Jeb would be suicide.

    They'll wait and nominate him in 2016.


  • Quaker in a Basement on November 07, 2011 3:49 PM:

    I don’t expect Gingrich’s little uptick to last, in large part because he simply lacks the resources, campaign structure, and work ethic to advance.

    What's more, it's not even evident that Newt actually wants to win the nomination. I mean, who announces and then promptly goes on vacation? Seems more likely he's sharing the Cain track to continued employment.

  • David in NY on November 07, 2011 4:06 PM:

    Time to stop calling it sexual harassment. That is simply subjecting someone to unwanted sexual attention, but is certainly less than actually touching, or attempting to touch, someone's genitals, and forcing them to touch one's own. Not sure what the latter is under the DC code, but it's sure not simple "harassment."

  • R. Porrofatto on November 07, 2011 4:14 PM:

    Remember, in nearly every instance since 1959, by this point in the race, the Republican frontrunner enjoyed support of at least 41% before going on to win the party’s nomination.

    Are you sure? This certainly wasn't true in November, 2007, when the frontrunner was Giuliani, with 28% of Republicans supporting him. McCain barely garnered 13% support, yet went on to win the nomination.

  • T2 on November 07, 2011 4:23 PM:

    2008. yeah, everybody knows McCain is an a-hole foul-mouthed hothead. The GOP didn't want him....but they clearly did not want Romney. As I've said many times, if the GOP wanted Romney to be the candidate, he'd have been the guy in 2008. They do not. He is a Mormon. And pretty lightweight. Perry has to do really well in EVERYTHING from here until the Caucus'. But you know he won't. I think the GOP has a real problem on their hands. That is the reason they are desperate to tank the economy. It's really their only chance.

  • Zorro on November 07, 2011 4:41 PM:

    Perry, meanwhile, actually has some money in the bank, and still has a chance to see his support grow.

    And don't forget: he's got the best hair of anyone running for Prez.


  • rrk1 on November 07, 2011 4:43 PM:

    The Obama campaign thinks Romney is the guy, and is gearing up to gut him. However, the evangelicals won't vote for him, neither in the primaries nor the general. They'll likely stay home for the general if he does get the nomination.

    The religious fascist vote will go to Perry and Bachmann, and if that element turns out in big numbers for the primary then all bets are off. Perry's money doesn't buy him a brain, however. His pay-to-play Texas cowboy capitalism may fill his campaign coffers, but won't persuade independents to vote for him. He is such an obvious out-and-out corporate whore.

    Wouldn't Obama wish want a Perry-Bachmann ticket? The entertainment value is priceless. I might actually watch one of the so-called debates.

  • T2 on November 07, 2011 4:46 PM:

    rrk1, six weeks ago I would have bet a bundle on the GOP nominating a Perry /Bachmann ticket. But Michele is very ticked off over the HPV thing, and called Perry a thief for stealing "her" Flat Tax scam...so bad blood there. And Perry will need a miracle to get back in this race.

  • dj spellchecka on November 07, 2011 4:49 PM:

    cnn/orc does gop primary polling with breakdowns between tea party and non-teaparty republicans

    mitt's been leading the latter for months...the former have been going for the flavor of the month with romney's support under 20% most of the same time period


  • Eric on November 07, 2011 4:50 PM:

    Let's be clear, what Cain was accused of today is not some off-color joke, or office banter. If he put his hand behind her head, and forced it towards his groin, while thrusting his hand under her skirt, during what was ostensibly a job interview, he was sexually assaulting her. He seems to believe that he can get away with silencing the women who complained about that sort of attack, and then posturing in public that this was all a misunderstanding about office banter and innocent conversation. Well, here's one woman who wasn't silenced, and who is accusing him of what by any reasonable standard is a criminal act. I don't get to express my opinion in the ballot box about that yet, but those on the right who do sure as hell are telling us all we need to know about who they are if they think that is all A OK with them.

  • Mike on November 07, 2011 5:02 PM:

    What strikes me is that, if I do my math correctly, then 21% of the respondents are undecided, which makes that tied with Romney and Cain. So just as many people don't really like ANYBODY as prefer Mitt or Herman.

  • glendenb on November 07, 2011 5:06 PM:

    Something has been bothering me about the dynamic in the Republican race - the Republican base clearly does not want Mitt Romney but the reason feels deeper, more inchoate than simply he's a flip flopper from Massachussetts. Republicans just don't trust Mitt for the same reason no one trusts Mitt - at some point he's been on every side of every issue. He has proven himself willing to say whatever he thinks you want to hear. But they want something else.

    The Republican base currently sees itself as a modern day insurgency against the powers that be. Mitt Romney embodies ptb-ness at its purest. Republican voters want to cast a protest vote against contemporary America and all that it encompasses - against Barack Obama, against government, against big business and a bad economy, against gay people and Hillary Clinton and uppity women and modernity in all its fun forms; Mitt just doesn't offer them the opportunity to vote against modernity. He really wants to win the White House.

    The Republican base wants a modern day Goldwater - a candidate so conservative he horrifies everyone but the Republican base. They want to sound their barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world and to do that, they need someone ideologically pure and angry and loud. It's almost as if the Republican base wants to have a massive temper tantrum, carry on, scream, shout and then accept that the world has changed and adapt. Wasn't that what Goldwater's campaign ended up being - a massive public temper tantrum followed by several decades of making an uneasy peace with racial justice?

    I read that a key part of Cain's support is a deeply held belief that conservative policies would be better for African-Americans than liberal policies and that Republicans want that debate but can't have it if their candidate is white because he or she ends up sounding racist. Cain looked good but he's been in business long enough he's tainted. So the search will continue for the firebrand who can channell their anger at the modern world and let them vent it, then make uneasy peace with it.

  • Stephen Stralka on November 07, 2011 5:10 PM:

    He’s running against misfits, clowns, and con men, and Romney’s still stuck at 21%.

    Personally I'm less and less inclined to draw any distinction between Romney and the misfits, clowns, and con men. I mean, which of those three things isn't he? He may be superficially less clownish than the other candidates, but he's got them all beat hands down in the con man department.

    And misfits? How about a front runner whose own party hates him?

  • T2 on November 07, 2011 5:20 PM:

    "How about a front runner whose own party hates him?"

    Hmmmm.....lets see. I can't remember who Clinton ran against the second time. And Bush...he had to be pushed into the race in 2000.....and lost. Won the second time by Ohio Gimmic. McCain....come on. Now Mitt?....it would seem the GOP hasn't had a candidate they really liked since Reagan-a guy who would be trailing Huntsman if he was running today, and finished his second term with his wife basically being a ventriloquist.

  • TreeTop on November 07, 2011 5:50 PM:

    Anyone who thinks Romney will be nominated by the Republican Party has never spoken with an Evangelical about Mormonism. Ain't gonna happen.

    And in the off chance it does, Palin will run against him as God's Independent, assuring an easy win for Obama.

  • Grumpy on November 07, 2011 6:21 PM:

    "...a strange, inexperienced man, who doesn’t understand government or current events..."

    ...As opposed to Gingrich, who has experience and understands government but is strange anyway.

  • FriscoSF on November 07, 2011 6:27 PM:

    ...Let's be clear, what Cain was accused of today is not some off-color joke, or office banter. If he put his hand behind her head, and forced it towards his groin, while thrusting his hand under her skirt,......

    And Goopers HATE Romney so much, they'll STILL vote for Cain instead of Romney

    You have to wonder if the current Ohio Governor is gonna throw that state and the 2012 election to the Democrats
    with his stupid policies

  • Joe Friday on November 07, 2011 6:36 PM:

    They really, really, REALLY, REALLY don't want Willard to be their nominee.

  • golack on November 07, 2011 7:38 PM:

    Maybe Obama should run as a Republican too--he'd poll above Bachmann even amongst POG's ;)

  • tam1MI on November 08, 2011 12:33 AM:

    He's running against misfits, clowns, and con men

    And the scary thing is, with the economy in the shitter and Obama's approval ratings heading there, one of them may end up being the President of the United States.

  • mfw13 on November 08, 2011 3:23 AM:

    The poll should read:

    Romney 21%
    Undecided 21%

    Once the "anybody but Romney" vote coalesces around a single candidate, which should happen sometime between Iowa and Super Tuesday, Romney will be dead meat.

  • bob h on November 08, 2011 5:55 AM:

    Even Republicans are smart enough to know that nominating a vulture fund capitalist who looks like the little man on the wedding cake is out of touch with the spirit of the age.

  • Richard Greenslade on November 08, 2011 9:15 AM:

    @mfw13 -

    They can't bring in a ringer that late in the game and expect to win. Despite the factors aligned against him, POTUS Barack has a rock-solid organization in every state with scads of volunteers, plus he has plenty of dough.

    The GOP looks to be in the strange position of badly muffing a winnable election, because they have no candidate able to reconcile the hard-right base with the independents they must convince in order to win. A Johnny-come-lately, even a legit one, just won't have time to do that.

  • yellowdog on November 08, 2011 5:08 PM:

    If you were a leading Republican in 2011 or 2012, would you really want to be President in 2013? Who would really want to be the next GOP President?

    -Your party has established a precedent in which the Senate must have 60 votes to do anything substantive, and unanimity to do anything procedural. Chances are good that Democrats will be able to keep 40 seats and vote as a bloc in 2013. They can do all the things the Senate GOP is doing now--block nominations for no reason, derail legislation, and keep the new GOP administration from putting any sort of agenda in place.

    -The GOP is no longer a party interested in governance. Whom will you get to staff an administration? Veterans from the Bush years? Discredited neocons? Incompetent hacks? Ideologues? Loons? Corporate shills? Culture warriors? Sounds like the Bush years. Where will you get any credible ideas for policy? Paul Ryan, whose numbers don't add up? The Koch Brothers, whose basic interest is shutting things down? Herman Cain, who is on an elaborate book tour? Sarah Palin, who quits jobs halfway through?

    -The GOP storehouse of policy, personnel, and seriousness is empty. The raw materials out of which to build a new administration are not there.

    -Even more, the policy positions of the GOP are well outside what people really want and expect. The party is radicalized. The Koch agenda of negation is not what people want, even if they don't like the way things are going now. If the Democrats keep a Senate bloc of at least 40, the new GOP president will have a world of trouble getting anything accomplished.

    -The GOP has produced lots of people like Rove who are good at politics and campaigns - but you don't want them running the government or trying to write budgets or dealing with real-world problems. They are best left in their own unreal world.

  • Indipseindure on November 23, 2011 6:38 AM:

    I agree with told all above. Let's discuss this question.
    Very good question!
    Be a Men!