So it’s four days until Super Tuesday, the big name Romney endorsements have been pouring in (Ingraham, Hannity, Santorum, etc.) and, in Romney’s own words, the “world of conservatism is considerably behind my effort.” If so, it is a small world after all.
Consider, to take two of the states where the GOP will be voting on Tuesday, Alabama and New York. In Alabama, Romney gets 21% and in New York he gets…21%. Nationally, according to FoxNews, Romney gets about 20%. So, about one out of five Republicans agree that Mitt Romney is the right candidate. If Huckabee’s limitations as the “evangelical candidate” have been revealed, Romney seems to have hit something of a similar ceiling (though it may vary some from state to state) in all those states where he has not campaigned intensively.
More interesting yet is the breakdown of the preferences. In Alabama, Romney finishes third among conservatives with McCain and Huckabee pulling in a third each while he gets just 24%. 23% of Alabama Republicans support him–fewer than support Huckabee and McCain. According to SurveyUSA, he trails McCain by 19 points in the state and he trails Huckabee by ten. He finishes third among pro-lifers. There is not a single issue that he dominates, and he finishes third among those who say the economy is their top issue. Meanwhile, in New York, you might expect Romney to do significantly better (though New Yorkers do have this thing about people from Massachusetts…) and he simply doesn’t. 27% of conservatives and 24% of pro-lifers back him. Unlike in Alabama, he finishes in second in all these categories, but he trails by much larger margins and trails McCain overall by 34 points (55-21). Again, he dominates no single issue, and loses among those who think the economy is the top issue 62-19. The Northeastern states are providing the proof: even where Huckabee isn’t a factor, Romney just isn’t competitive. He loses upstate New York by 23, loses in the city by 33 and gets destroyed in the city suburbs, losing by 46. New York may be a special case, but that seems to throw into doubt the “Romney as suburban candidate” idea.
You’ll say, “What about other states? You probably picked those because he is doing so badly there.” Fair enough. Let’s see a few more. He does lead in Massachusetts, but while his lead of 23 ahead of McCain seems secure it is interesting that he can get just 59% of Republicans in his own state. Somewhat surprisingly, he is down four in Missouri, but is just two ahead of Huckabee, who is still quite competitive there. Missouri is one of the few states where Romney narrowly leads among conservative voters, and he ties Huckabee for the lead among pro-lifers. Central Missouri appears to be Romney’s life-preserver in that state. So one of his best states is also a virtual three-way tie and could conceivably go for any one of them.
With that exception in mind, once you move beyond his power base, however, his problems re-emerge. Romney trails by 23 in New Jersey, and by 22 in Connecticut. He loses conservatives to McCain in Connecticut, and just barely wins them in New Jersey. The same story is repeated in Oklahoma, narrowly losing conservatives to both McCain and Huckabee, and receiving just 19% overall and trailing McCain by almost 20 points. If he were the obvious conservative alternative, it would never be this close among conservatives, and he would be leading in some of these states. Conservatives represent pluralities or even majorities in all of these polls, which should give Romney an edge…if he were credible. A Minnesota poll released on the day of the Florida primary showed McCain ahead of Romney, who was in third place, by 24 points. The poll still included 6% for Giuliani, most of whom probably have since gone for McCain. Huckabee was in second at 22%. McCain and Huckabee both lead Romney among “economy and jobs the most important problem” voters, of whom 8% supported him.
In Illinois, in a pre-Florida poll that included Giuliani, he trails among conservatives by 2 and he is behind overall by 8. He loses every income group and every religious group (Huckabee, naturally, wins evangelicals). He wins with immigration voters, but loses to McCain with economy, Iraq and security voters. In California, Romney seems to have the best chance of any of the big states to win overall and score some delegates regardless. A post-Florida Rasmussen poll that still includes Giuliani had him within four of the lead. Romney wins among conservatives, but does not outperform McCain and Giuliani together. He wins one income group ($75K-100K earners) and none of the religious affiliations. Again, he carries immigration voters, and loses the rest. Remarkably, the one issue on which he is probably least credible is the one that he is dominating more or less consistently these days.