Polls are coming out faster now than McDonald’s hamburgers — and new ones keep delivering good news for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and mixed news for President Barack Obama.
How much in disarray is Romney’s opposition? So much so that evangelicals are now enmeshed in an accusation war about whether the vote of 150 social conservative activists this weekend was somehow rigged so that former Pennyslvania Senator Rick Santorum and not former House Speaker Newt Gingrich came out as the choice to be the key anti-Romney. The bottom line is this: by all indications, Romney’s Republican opponents are now going to siphon off each other’s votes so that in the end evangelicals and Tea Party members will get the candidate they wanted least: former Republican moderate Romney, who now insists he has seen the ideological light and is a conservative.
The polls should make Romney smile.
‘Mitt Romney is all tied up with President Barack Obama in a likely general election matchup, with the president showing signs of weakness on the economy and Romney seen as out of touch with ordinary Americans, according to a new national survey.
And a CNN/ORC International Poll released Monday also indicates that Rep. Ron Paul of Texas is also even with Obama in another possible showdown this November. The survey also suggests the Republican advantage on voter enthusiasm is eroding, which could be crucial in a close contest.
According to the survey, if the November election were held today and Romney were the Republican presidential nominee, 48% say they’d vote for the former Massachusetts governor, with 47% supporting the president. Romney’s one point margin is well within the poll’s sampling error.
The poll also indicates Paul statistically tied with Obama, with the president at 48% and the longtime congressman at 46%. But according to the poll, the president is doing better against two other Republican presidential candidates. If Rick Santorum were the GOP nominee, Obama would hold a 51%-45% advantage over the former senator from Pennsylvania. And if Newt Gingrich faced off against the president, Obama would lead the former House speaker 52%-43%.
Enthusiasm in voting in the presidential election this November now stands at 54% among registered Republicans, down ten points from last October. Meanwhile, enthusiasm among registered Democrats has risen six points, and now stands at 49%.
“In a race that tight, turnout is likely to determine the outcome, and the Democrats have begun to close the ‘enthusiasm gap’ that damaged their prospects so badly in the 2010 midterms,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
Mitt Romney has climbed to a commanding 23-point lead over his nearest competitor among Republican registered voters nationally, based on interviewing conducted Jan. 11-15. Romney has 37% of the support of Republicans nationwide, while Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich each have 14%, and Ron Paul has 12%. History suggests that Romney is now the probable favorite to win the Republican nomination.
Romney’s current 37% support is tied for the highest enjoyed by any Republican candidate in Gallup Daily tracking of Republican preferences so far this election cycle, and marks a 13-percentage-point increase in support from his five-day average that ended Jan. 2, just before the Iowa caucuses.
As Romney’s support has increased, support for his primary competitors has dropped. Santorum saw his support reach as high as 18% shortly after his strong showing in Iowa, but it has now settled back down to 14%. Gingrich’s support had reached as high as 37% at two points in early December, but has now dropped by 23 points to 14%. Paul’s support has been more consistent, and his current 12% is roughly where he has been over the past month. Rick Perry’s support has languished in single digits since Gallup began daily tracking of the race on Dec. 1.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman’s announcement on Monday that he is dropping out of the race and throwing his support to Romney most likely will have little impact on the race. Huntsman has been receiving only minimal support among Republicans nationally since Dec. 1, and his final five-day average support for Jan. 11-15 is 2%.
Gallup’s analysis of historical trends indicates that ever since the nominations have been determined by voters in state primaries and caucuses rather than the national party conventions, the post-New Hampshire leader in the national polling of Republicans has gone on to win the GOP nomination. Romney is not only leading at this point, but his margin over his nearest competitor is growing and well above the 20-point threshold. It would be a historical anomaly if Romney did not go on from this point to win his party’s nomination.
Mitt Romney’s in a strong position to win this weekend in South Carolina, and he’s in an even stronger position to follow it up with a big win in Florida. Our first Sunshine State poll of 2012 finds Romney with a 15 point lead at 41% to Newt Gingrich’s 26% with Rick Santorum at 11%, Ron Paul at 10%, Rick Perry at 4%, and Buddy Roemer at 1% rounding out the field.
Romney’s lead expands further when you look only at voters whose minds are completely made up, to 48-27 over Gingrich. 71% of his voters say they’ll definitely cast their ballot for him, compared to only 61% who say the same for Gingrich.
There’s been an enormous shift in Florida since PPP last polled the state right after Thanksgiving. Romney’s gained 24 points, going from 17% to 41%. Meanwhile Gingrich has dropped 21 points, going from 47% to 26%.
Romney has extremely impressive favorability numbers in the state with 68% of Republicans seeing him positively to only 24% with a negative opinion. Those are better numbers than we’ve found for him in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina polling. It’s not just a splintered conservative vote that has him ahead in Florida. And even if most of his opponents were to drop out before the primary, Romney would still be in good shape. In hypothetical head to head match ups he leads Gingrich 50-38, Santorum 59-29, Perry 69-21, and Paul 76-17.
Two big things are working to Romney’s advantage in Florida and elsewhere: voters are focused on the economy, and they’re focused on beating Barack Obama. 69% of Republicans in Florida list either government spending or jobs and the economy as their top issue. Social issues and foreign policy are really on the back burner this year. Romney leads Gingrich 42-25 as the candidate voters most trust on the economy. And as much as he’s been attacked for his business record it’s proving to be an undeniable asset with primary voters- 70% have a favorable opinion of it to only 18% with a negative one.
Romney has also done a good job of, at worst, neutralizing social conservatives. He’s leading Gingrich 39-30 with Santorum at 15% among evangelicals in Florida. When it comes to the candidate voters ‘trust most on social issues like abortion and gay marriage’ he actually leads Santorum 30-21 with Gingrich at 19%. Romney’s even narrowly winning Tea Party voters with 33% to 31% for Gingrich, 16% for Santorum, and 10% for Paul.
Unless there is some shift — like a major change due to a major Romney debate blunder — everything is lined up for Romney getting the nomination and a highly spirited battle for the White House between Obama and the GOP nominee.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.