Thursday, February 09, 2012

Little Ricky

It was a busy Saturday for Republicans in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado. At the end of the day, Rick Santorum surprised a lot of people by solidly trouncing Mitt Romney and the other GOP candidates in all three contests. I expected Santorum to do well, but I didn't expect such a strong showing.

In a column written before the voting, David Horsey had a pretty solid take on Santorum's appeal in those three states, and even beyond.

A new GOP-leaning Rasmussen poll posits a general-election match-up in which Santorum beats the president by 1 percentage point, 45% to 44%, while Romney falls short by 4 percentage points and Newt Gingrich trails by eight. More immediately, other polls suggest that the former Pennsylvania senator may do well in today’s Minnesota caucuses and the nonbinding primary in Missouri.

National likeability surveys among independent voters, who are less driven by ideology and more inclined toward someone they’d want as fishing buddy, also favor Santorum, especially in swing states such as Ohio and Missouri. Among the same folks, Romney’s favorability rating is dropping fast, though it hasn’t reached the level of loathing independent voters have for Gingrich.

Santorum has also picked up quite a few endorsements from right-leaning opinion leaders and aging activists such as Pat Boone and Phyllis Schlafly (not exactly the voices of a new generation, but icons, nevertheless, among Christian conservatives).

While Rick Santorum usually comes across as a "nice guy" with strong family values, he also has something else going for him: he isn't Mitt Romney. Romney just isn't persuading a lot of voters right now, whether conservative Republicans or independents, that he's the man who can beat Barack Obama in November.

In fact, there seems to be a lack of enthusiasm across the board, whether it's Romney or any of the not-Romneys under consideration. Phoenix Woman did some number crunching on two of the three contests from Saturday, and notes the drop in voter turnout from 2008. When 20%-33% fewer people show up at a caucus, there are some real danger signals being flashed and the national party has got to be a little nervous about that, Rasmussen Poll be damned.

That said, there are still plenty of contests left. Maine's next this month, and the big "Super Tuesday" comes up the first Tuesday in March. November is still a long ways off.

Lots of popcorn awaits consumption.



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