Friday, March 26, 2010


Paul Krugman this morning, in a column about GOP extremism:'s been a hoot watching Mitt Romney squirm as he tries to distance himself from a [health care] plan that, as he knows full well, is nearly identical to the reform he himself pushed through as governor of Massachusetts. His best shot was declaring that enacting reform was an "unconscionable abuse of power," a "historic usurpation of the legislative process" -- presumably because the legislative process isn't supposed to include things like "votes" in which the majority prevails.

Yeah, but the odd thing is that Romney is actually polling well among potential 2012 Republican primary voters, at least if Public Policy Polling is to be believed:

In Ohio Romney leads with 32% to 28% for Mike Huckabee and 26% for Sarah Palin. Romney is also at 32% in Wisconsin, followed by Palin with 27% and Huckabee with 23%.

In fact, PPP has done polls in eight states. Romney's #1 in six of them (Huckabee leads the others. Palin has no first-place finishes.)

And there seems to be a simple explanation, which makes a lot of sense to me:

The numbers in [Ohio and Wisconsin] follow the big trend we've been seeing across the country, which is that conservatives are split pretty evenly in their support between the three candidates at this point but Romney leads overall because of a wide advantage among moderates.

Look, I made a lot of dire warnings about Giuliani's great poll numbers before the '08 primaries, so I know from painful experience that you don't want to make serious pronouncements about a presidential race years in advance. But I think it's possible that Romney could possibly win the nomination because GOP crazies are going to split several different ways (not just Palin and Huckabee but Gingrich and Santorum and who knows who else), while the remaining Republican "moderates" (i.e., conservatives who aren't stark raving mad) may well gravitate to Mitt. It's more or less how John McCain won the '08 nomination.

And that -- if the GOP is still the party of teabagging rage -- is when we might finally see the tea party/GOP schism everyone's predicting for this year.

Look, it's true that a few tea party candidates are going to beat establishment Republicans in primaries. It seems much less likely that there'll be serious third-party teabag threats (except that possible phony teabagger in Nevada). Because really, how hard will it be to be the GOP nominee in most races and also talk tea party lingo? Nearly all of them are going to pull it off, or get primaried off the November ballot. Rifts will be few and far between.

But 2012 could be different. The crazies have had years to develop skepticism about Romney. If he wins, I think he really could get Nadered.

It's amazing he's doing as well as he's done, but I do think at least some of the crazies will fall for anyone who gets all the codewords right. That might be enough to get Romney through the primaries. But a teabagger may siphon off GOP votes from him after that.

UPDATE: CNN gets numbers similar to PPP's:

On the GOP side, it's impossible to say who the frontrunner currently is, with three potential candidates - Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee - bunched together at the front of the pack within a few points of each other. 22 percent of Republicans want to see Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2008 GOP White House hopeful, get the GOP nomination; Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, wins support from 18 percent of GOPers and former Arkansas governor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee comes in at 17 percent.. All other Republicans tested were in single digits.

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