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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

GOP Voters Find Romney as Exciting as a Saltine

The New Hampshire primaries are today and, if polling is to be believed, Mitt Romney may be looking at a landslide. This is probably fortunate for Team Romney, since it may wipe the taste of a humiliating Iowa squeaker from their mouths. Then again, Mitt's trajectory has been downward in the Granite State in recent days, so it's possible that he may not get his monstrous win. Still, barring a miracle, Romney will win.

While the media have been talking about Romney's "inevitability" as the GOP nominee, the other narrative has been the Republican voters' inability to get behind him. While polls show him winning in New Hampshire, I haven't seen one that has him cracking 50%. If this primary battle is what the media has portrayed it to be -- Romney vs. Not-Romney -- then Not-Romney still has the numbers, if not the candidate. As a result, Mitt Romney's rise seems to be accompanied by a consequence; waning GOP enthusiasm.

Part of the reason for the Iowa squeaker was that evaporating enthusiasm. Where turnout for the caucuses was expected to reach 140,000, 122,000 showed up. Romney won by eight votes, making it the tightest win in caucus history. And the number of registered Iowa Republicans has declined from 21.1 percent in 2008 to 19.9 percent now.


Nationally, the numbers are no better. A new CBS News poll finds that most GOP voters disapprove of their presidential choices -- and that percentage has increased.

The nominating process may officially be underway, but Republicans have yet to enthusiastically embrace a potential nominee for president - and despite the late date, most would like to see other candidates enter the race, according to a new CBS News poll.

The survey finds that 58 percent of Republican primary voters want more presidential choices, while just 37 percent say they are satisfied with the current field. The percentage of Republican primary voters that wants more choices has increased 12 percentage points since October.

A twelve percent quarterly rise in voter dissatisfaction is nothing to sneeze at. This is not the direction the Republican Party wants to be moving in right now. And it's not just Mitt that's dragging the party's enthusiasm down, it's the clear lack of a Mitt-alternative. This is why voters have been running from candidate to candidate, desperately searching for a Not-Romney who is also a Not-Joke.

They haven't been having a lot of luck. First it was Trump, then Bachmann, then Cain, then Gingrich, now maybe Santorum. As a result, the Not-Romney contingent is scattered and demoralized. How often can candidates let you down before you conclude they're all worthless?

"There is no candidate in the GOP field who more than one third of Republican primary voters say they would enthusiastically support if he were the nominee," CBS reports. "Rick Santorum does best in terms of enthusiasm, with 33 percent saying they would enthusiastically support him. (Roughly one in two say their support for Santorum would either come with reservations or simply result from the fact that he is the GOP nominee.) Santorum is followed by Newt Gingrich, whom 29 percent would enthusiastically support, and Romney, whom 27 percent would enthusiastically support. They're followed by Rick Perry at 17 percent, Ron Paul at 15 percent and Jon Huntsman at 12 percent."

The only bright spot for the GOP in the poll is that it shows Romney beating Obama by two points, mostly the result of Independents swinging Romney's way and within the poll's three-point margin of error. But the caveats here are that it's still very early and that Romney's perceived strong suit -- business and the economy -- is being hammered at by his rivals. Also, that two points means a "whoever wants it more" race -- bad news for a candidate whose voters lack enthusiasm. And Romney voters' enthusiasm is running third, between Newt Gingrich and the miserable, hopeless Rick Perry.

It may be that, in the end, Barack Obama will win reelection by being the final Not-Romney candidate.


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