Thursday, March 08, 2012


I'm not the least bit surprised at this:

New poll shows Rick Santorum leading in Alabama GOP primary

A new poll released on the eve of Rick Santorum’s first campaign visit to Alabama shows the former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania leading in the state Republican Party presidential primary.

The statewide poll conducted by Alabama State University’s Center for Leadership and Public Policy showed 22.7 percent of likely Republican voters supported Santorum, who is scheduled to make campaign appearances Thursday in Huntsville and Mobile.

Former Massachussetts Gov. Mitt Romney trailed Santorum with 18.7 percent, followed by Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House from neighboring Georgia, with 13.8 percent.

I think a lot of people assumed that Newt Gingrich was the obvious not-Romney in the upcoming Deep South primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, but (a) Gingrich has won exactly two states, one of them his own, and (b) voters really don't like him, and that's starting to include GOP voters -- in one recent poll, he couldn't even get to 50% favorability among Republicans.

It's obvious why: apart from the fact that Gingrich has had little opportunity lately to perform the one trick in his repertoire -- attacking debate moderators -- Team Romney has had great success painting Newt as a phony conservative. Team Romney is good at tarnishing opponents' reputations, but there's a limit: the Romney camp can't smear Santorum as a phony God-botherer. Thus, Santorum can't really be painted as a phony conservative to a certain percentage of the base because, to those people, a sincere God-botherer is a true conservative by definition. God-bothering, to these voters, is the essence of conservatism.

So what does this mean? It means we're in a two-man race. (In case you missed it, Ron Paul's not generating much excitement these days.)

I don't think it means that Santorum automatically picks up all of Gingrich's support, in the event of either a Gingrich withdrawal or a Gingrich fade. I think it means that undecided voters who are Romney skeptics but aren't fellow God-botherers -- i.e., a lot of Republicans outside the Bible Belt -- are going to be faced with the choice of a Christian zealot, an Austrian-economics zealot loser, a grifter loser, and Romney, and are just going to say "The hell with it" and go with electability, and thus Romney.

An advantage Newt had for a while was that he'd learned to work the God grift, but he still came off as secular enough for secular voters. Now the only guy who can stop Romney is Flanders Santorum. A lot of wingers won't want to go there.

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