The following article presents one interpretation of the race for the Republican presidential nomination. For a counter-view written by Ben Shapiro, in favor of Newt Gingrich’s electability, click here.
If you can’t get elected, you can’t govern. That’s why electability is a top concern of Republican primary voters, compelling even some of those who would prefer a Gingrich presidency to support Mitt Romney. Each candidate has his flaws and advantages against President Obama, but there are three big reasons why Romney is generally seen as the more electable one. The polls show that Romney is a much stronger candidate, Gingrich has significantly more baggage and Gingrich’s difficulties in leadership could jeopardize his campaign.
The polls have Romney performing better against Obama than Gingrich in every important state. First, look at some of the most Republican-friendly states won by Obama in 2008. Romney wins Missouri but Gingrich loses by 4. In Virginia, Obama loses to Romney by 2 but beats Gingrich by 5. In Florida, Obama leads Romney only 0.2% on average (the latest poll has him up by 2) but defeats Gingrich by 5.5. In North Carolina, Obama leads Romney by 1 and Gingrich by 6. In Ohio, Romney is behind by 5.5, while Gingrich is way behind by 13.5 percentage points.
Now look at some of the more difficult swing states, at least one of which will probably have to be won by the Republican nominee. Romney wins New Hampshire by 6.5 points while Gingrich loses by 10. In Pennsylvania, Obama defeats Romney by 2.3 and Gingrich by 9.5. In Iowa, Romney loses by 2.6 and Gingrich by 10. In Michigan, Obama wins by 2.7 against Romney and 5 against Gingrich. In Nevada, Obama beats Romney by 6.5 and Gingrich by 12. In Colorado, Romney loses by 2 and Gingrich loses by 8.
If the election were held today between Obama and Romney, the president would win with 301 electoral votes. If Obama ran against Gingrich, he’d be re-elected with 357 electoral votes. Based on the polls today, it is undeniable that Romney is much more electable.
The baggage Gingrich carries could further drive down his poll numbers. Romney has been campaigning ever since he first declared his presidential run in early January 2007. His flip-flops and other flaws have been talked about endlessly. On the other hand with Gingrich, there is a lot that the Democratic Party can remind voters of.
The media will undoubtedly report on his infidelity and messy marital history throughout the campaign. The ethics investigation of him when he was speaker of the House, the Republican revolt against him resulting in his resignation, the inflammatory rhetoric, the narcissistic remarks, the alleged lobbying on behalf of Freddie Mac, etc.
There may be good answers for these accusations and effective rebuttals, but it still puts the campaign on the defensive. Negative media reports and Democratic attack ads could make it nearly impossible for Gingrich to define his candidacy and articulate his vision for the future of the country.
The third advantage Romney has over Gingrich is in political leadership. Romney has made very few mistakes since his second presidential campaign began and always stays on message. There are many criticisms of his time at Bain Capital and as governor of Massachusetts but insufficient leadership isn’t one of them. He has had no political meltdowns, standing in sharp contrast to Gingrich.
Rick Santorum has a valid point when he calls Gingrich “erratic” and says that Republicans would have to worry every day about what he is saying. Undisciplined communication and messaging will make Gingrich the issue instead of Obama. Romney likewise says that if Gingrich is the Republican nominee, there would be an “October surprise” every day.
As speaker of the House, Gingrich lost his congressional allies and his approval rating fell to the bottom. His leadership is often blamed for contributing to President Clinton’s re-election. He eventually “resigned in disgrace,” as Romney put it. When he became a presidential candidate, his campaign almost immediately collapsed and fell into deep debt.
His candidacy was saved by strong debate performances and the inability of other “anti-Romneys” to withstand the scrutiny as they fell as quickly as they rose. It should be noted that, like the others, Gingrich’s support collapsed in Iowa when faced with a tidal wave of negative advertising. If he’s the nominee, the Republican Party must hope that his support has gotten more solid because he will face a similar offensive, only larger and longer.
Overall, Romney can make the case that his strengths and weaknesses are known and the polls show him in a close match-up with President Obama. Gingrich is significantly behind Obama and he hasn’t undergone 4 years of nearly constant examination as Romney has. Newt Gingrich has a long way to go to prove that he’s more electable than Romney.
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