Two weeks ago Mitt Romney led Newt Gingrich (aren't these great names?) by 22 percentage points in the Rasmussen polling in Florida which consistently is the most objective and accurate of the polls. Today Gingrich leads by 9 points. What happened and what does it mean? Breaking down the polling numbers may give us some insight.
First, it is fluid in that one-in-three (32%) say they still could change their minds before they vote in the January 31 primary (there is another debate tonight).
Throughout the GOP race, Romney has always benefited from the perception that he was the strongest general election candidate in the field. However, among Florida voters at the moment, that is no longer the case. Forty-two percent (42%) now believe Gingrich would be the strongest candidate against Obama, while 39% say the same of Romney. At the other extreme, 64% see Ron Paul as the weakest potential candidate against Obama.
Seventy-seven percent (77%) have a favorable opinion of Romney, while 69% say the same of Gingrich. Sixty-four percent (64%) give Santorum positive reviews, but only 33% have a favorable opinion of Paul. In Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, Paul did better among non-Republicans than Republicans. In the Florida primary, only registered Republicans are allowed to participate.
By a 45% to 30% margin over Gingrich, Romney is seen as the best candidate to manage the economy. Gingrich has a 54% to 23% edge over the former Massachusetts governor when it comes to who is best qualified to handle national security matters.
As for which candidate is best in terms of social issues, 30% prefer Romney, 30% Gingrich and 23% Santorum.
When asked which candidate has the best personal character, 41% say Romney, 30% Santorum, 11% Gingrich (whoa) and 10% Paul.
Gingrich leads by 28 among Very Conservative voters and by seven among Somewhat Conservative voters. Among all other voters, Romney leads by 20 (independents).
Gingrich picks up 52% of the Tea Party vote. Romney gets 17% and Santorum 16% of these voters.
It appears that Gingrich has convinced the folks that he is more conservative and that his Washington experience better prepares him for managing international affairs. And surprisingly to me, these issues trump the folk's perception that Romney is best suited to manage the economy and has the best personal character. How could this make sense when most agree the BIG issue is JOBS which translates into the ECONOMY?
It is my feeble opinion the answer lies in our mindless TV driven culture. We all love to tune in, lean back, and have the television take control of our total being. If it takes me where I want to go, I am a happy camper. If it bores me or contradicts my principles, I switch channels.
If I am an undecided voter, I tune into the debates, sit back, and have the process takeover. When Newt gets standing ovations by an audience that I relate to, I am moved. Last week Newt hit home runs when asked about his adulterous affairs (attacked the press), his views on food stamps (believes in work), and his attacks on Bain Capital and Romney's tax filings. The undecided audience was moved---BIG TIME.
Just over three years ago TV viewers kicked back, tuned in and watched a youthful Black presidential candidate artfully read from teleprompters (like in TELEVISION) and espouse grandiose schemes like HOPE AND CHANGE. Enough of the electorate was moved to give this TV candidate a fairly easy victory over a war hero with a long and well established record of service.
I have just one question for all of us. How are TELEVISION POLITICS working out for you?
In summary, I love Newt Gingrich. 90% of the time I think he is brilliant. 10% of the time I think he does the stupidest things imaginable (Freddie, global warming, impeachment by his own party as the 'leader' of the House). The problem is our next Republican President must, first, present an overwhelming leadership record and image over the current White House resident, and secondly, is required to be on duty 100% of the time in leading the free world once elected.
Think about it,