Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Public Policy Polling goes through the history of the not-Romneys and finds that Santorum is the first one to do better than Romney against Obama:

PPP's newest national poll finds Romney trailing Obama by 7 points at 49-42, while Santorum trails by only 5 points at 49-44.

... Over the previous 6 months when Romney first trailed Michele Bachmann, then Rick Perry, then Herman Cain, then Newt Gingrich in our national polling he still did on average 6 points better than them in our general election tests. Santorum's the first insurgent to challenge Romney on that front as well....

Santorum's net favorability is 21 points better than Romney's. Santorum's at -7 (39/46), while Romney is at -28 (29/57). That's mostly because Republicans like Santorum a lot better (+40 at 62/22 to Romney's +2 at 43/41). But Santorum also does a good deal better with independents, coming in at -6 (40/46) to Romney's -23 (32/55). In the head to heads Obama leads Romney by 9 with independents, but has only a 4 point advantage on Santorum with that group.

(Emphasis added.)

How is this possible? Well, I hate the scolding tone of this Jonathan Chait post, but I essentially agree with what he's saying:

Santorum has attracted a terrible reputation among the overclass. He is defined by his crude, bigoted social conservatism, which colors the broader perception of him as an extremist. This in turn leeches out into a sense, often reflected in news coverage, which likewise reflects the social biases of the overclass, that Santorum is a fringe candidate who would repel swing voters.

To put that in a somewhat more charitable way, I think a lot of committed liberals and urban sophisticates (I place myself in both categories) really do care more than the rest of the public about zealously protecting the right to have gay sex, non-marital sex, non-procreative sex, and only wanted children after any sex. Since these issues matter a lot to us, and Rick Santorum is not only on the wrong side on all of them but is so proudly and defiantly, he seems ickier to us than he does, perhaps, than he does to the rest of the public.

Now, I think plenty of swing voters and heartlanders will stand with us on some or all of these things when push comes to shove; even at the Applebee's salad bar they hated Dan Quayle's attempt to slut-shame single mothers a generation ago, and more and more heartlanders are cool with the fact that Ellen DeGeneres is gay. But if these aren't make-or-break issues for moderate Middle Americans, which I think is the case, then they're unlikely to have paid as much attention to Santorum over the years as we have, so right now he doesn't look so bad to them. I don't know if that will continue to be true if he's the nominee and they learn more about him, but for now we shouldn't assume that our view of him is shared by everyone who's not a rightist.

(X-posted at Balloon Juice as part of this post.)


Uncle Mike said...

Santorum is against all methods of birth control. Do you think people (esp. women) will just ignore that? Or do you think they'll assume he won't do anything about it once in office?

Steve M. said...

He's not advocating a ban on birth control, so I think many of them will ignore it.

c u n d gulag said...

Rick isn't against birth control, per se.
His position is if you want to use birth control, then you have to pay for it.

Bubba and Bubbette won't vote if they find out he doesn't want them to f*ck without having babies, and won't help subsidize their f*cking.

Especially if they decide to f*ck someone besides one another.

Michael Gee said...

Dear Steve: Pew Poll released yesterday was Obama 52-Romney 44, Obama 53-Santorum 43. Same two-point difference flipped the other way. Random statistical noise may well be at work here.

Greg said...

Here's my theory: He learned in the Senate to express himself with a measure of poise and gravitas that others in the Clown Car lack. In one of the early debates, my liberal brother noticed this, and gave him credit for it. And I think middle-of-the-roadsters who aren't paying close attention now are cutting him some slack. I do think he's quite vulnerable to the negative ad campaigns he'll be getting from Romney and then (if he survives) Obama later on. But for now, he seems a plausible Last Man Standing, given how ridiculous the GOP field has been this time around.

Tom Hilton said...

Another way to put this is, Romney has massive weaknesses that Santorum doesn't have.

But then Santorum has massive weaknesses of his own--weaknesses Romney doesn't have. (And they both bear the dead weight of the far right's ideological expectations.) That clip of him saying "people think contraception is okay. It isn't okay" will, I guarantee, turn off a lot more people than it appeals to. And there's plenty more where that came from.

It's a valid point that we can't measure the relative value of Romney's weaknesses vs. Santorum's (and actually never will, because they'll never go head to head in a general election). We might have a slightly better idea after the Not-Coordinating-With-Romney media blitz pounds the living shit out of Santorum.

BH said...

I agree with Greg above. Lord knows, poise & gravitas have been rare among the Clown Car ridership - even the veneer-thickness of those qualities that Sanctorum displays. He's not quite the pushover that Newt was for Mitty & would have been for O, and he'll require some careful handling to avoid making him look like a victim/martyr (which he could pull off much better than his predecessors in the wingnut-fave position) - but a real threat? So far I don't think so.

: smintheus :: said...

Voters don't know much about Santorum's character or his record or his positions...certainly not in comparison to what they know about Romney. Every front runner has crashed and burned after voters got to know them better.

Never mind the crazy Santorum. There's enough corruption in Santorum's Senate career to put him in a very deep hole against Obama.