Friday, April 15, 2011


The newsflash in this Public Policy Polling announcement, obviously, is the astonishing (although I'm not really astonished) success of Donald Trump in PPP's national poll of GOP voters -- he's now up by 9. But I think there's something else to look at, as I'll explain below:

Trump's broken the perpetual gridlock we've found at the top of the Republican field, getting 26% to 17% for Mike Huckabee, 15% for Romney, 11% for Newt Gingrich, 8% for Sarah Palin, 5% for Ron Paul, and 4% for Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty.

PPP polled further, on the reasonable assumption that Trump (and several other well-known contenders) may not run:

If you take Trump out of the mix Huckabee leads with 22% to 16% for Romney, 15% for Gingrich, 12% for Palin, 8% for Paul, 6% for Pawlenty and Bachmann, and 3% for Haley Barbour.

If you look at the field with Huckabee, Palin, and Trump all out of the mix you end up with a showdown between Romney and Gingrich. Romney gets 25% to 23% for Gingrich, 13% for Paul, 10% for Pawlenty, 8% for Bachmann, and 4% for Barbour.

Notice what's going on in these scenarios? Romney and Gingrich are essentially tied. And with Huckabee, Palin, and Trump out of the race -- a very likely scenario -- Romney and Gingrich are essentially tied for first.

Now, you know the conventional wisdom about Republicans: they may flirt with some other contender during primary season, but they eventually calm down and pick "the guy whose turn it is": Bush in '88, Dole in '96, McCain in '08. GOP voters seem crazy right now, but tradition suggests that they'll settle down and go with Mitt Romney.

But what if he's not the guy whose turn it is? What if Gingrich is the guy whose turn it is?

Think about it: he's a veteran pol who's on Sunday-morning chat shows all the time -- but he's also a Fox News crackpot who'll say anything to rally the pitchfork-wielding ultra-right rabble. What if he's the guy who's going to pull off the Nixon-in-'68 feat of seeming like a cerebral establishmentarian to voters who want that and an inspiring hatemonger to voters who want that?

I don't have statistical theories to back this up. It's just a hunch. But it's a hunch that I find rather unsettling .

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