“Once again, what a difference a week makes” was the way I started a Facebook status after seeing the latest Real Clear Politics summary graph of the Florida polls. That was before the release of the NBC/Marist, PPP, and Rasmussen polls were entered but even after those polls factored into the mix, the result was still the same – Romney leads Gingrich by double digits going into primary week in Florida. What’s more striking is that if you look at the graph you’ll see the South Carolina spike by Gingrich but then comes the plunging poll numbers of the former speaker. So what happened in that week that has flipped the numbers?
Today Newt Gingrich urged the other two conservative candidates, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry, to drop out of the race so conservative voters can rally around a single “anti-Romney” candidate. Of course, you can just imagine how much support he got from the other candidates on that suggestion. “It’s an enormous amount of hubris for someone who lost their first two races, who thinks enough of themselves –- because a couple of polls have him at this moment in time ahead of me –- that everybody should step aside and let him, who hasn’t defeated me in two of the elections so far, to let him have a wide berth,” said Santorum. While there’s a certain amount of arrogance to Gingrich’s suggestion, is there some validity to his claim that he is the only candidate capable of beating Romney?
So it’s looking more and more like Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee for the presidential race. He won, for all intents and purposes, Iowa and handily defeated Ron Paul in New Hampshire. He’s leading the in the polls in South Carolina, although the latest poll shows him only two points ahead of Newt Gingrich. Florida has him with a double digit lead ahead of Gingrich, something that will only increase if he wins South Carolina. But is he really the nominee the Republicans want for 2012? More importantly, if he’s not will they hold their nose and vote for him in the general election in November just to get rid of Obama? Maybe this presidential race is a signal to bigger issues within the Republican Party that they don’t want admit.
For all the flack Iowa is taking about not being a representative selection process for a presidential nominee, it created some interesting outcomes that the Republican Party will be dealing with in the weeks or months to come. As I said yesterday, Iowa is not about picking winners. It’s about culling the crop of the bottom tier of candidates. But the dynamics of the Iowa campaign may have created some outcomes the Party wasn’t expecting or planning for. Most likely the folks in Chicago with the Obama campaign were just salivating watching everything play out in Iowa. They may have been handed their ticket to re-election thanks to the Iowa caucuses. So what is the Good, Bad, and Ugly of Iowa?
Another poll was released yesterday from Public Policy Polling, a Democratic based polling firm that actually seems to bias towards Republican candidates according to Nate Silver. In the poll, Ron Paul took the lead from Newt Gingrich who actually slid pretty substantially from 27% on Dec. 5th to 14% in this latest poll. The poll was taken just after the last Republican debate in Sioux City and included Sunday after the release of the Des Moines Register endorsement of Mitt Romney. What’s interesting about the PPP poll is that it solidifies the pattern we’ve seen of lead change in the Republican primary in Iowa that has gone from Bachmman to Perry to Cain to Gingrich to possibly Paul, according to the Real Clear Politics tracking page. While Paul has not emerged as the latest leader, he’s only a point under Gingrich and has shown a steady climb to the top spot. So what does this latest poll really indicate going into Christmas week?
Yesterday some more polls came out highlighting some of the changes that have happened in the Republican primary field after two weeks of fun. Those two weeks saw two debates, a campaign in denial, and another campaign trying to get some positive air-time. But looking at the polls and the shape of the field it’s becoming apparent Republican voters are falling into two clearly distinctive camps (well, three if you count the faithful) – those who support Romney and those who want anybody but Romney, usually conservative voters. Some have called the second camp the “flavor of the week” group but in reality I’m beginning to see it as a bunch of voters with a set of ideals for the nominee and are trying to fit candidates into that set but having a hard time fitting square pegs into round holes. Candidates look good on the surface but when you start to peel back the layers you start finding all kinds of stuff you weren’t expecting to find. Just like tossing bad fruit out looking for that perfect one, these voters are tossing aside candidates as fast as a bad apple.