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For months now, the political media have advanced the narrative that Mitt Romney is trapped under a ceiling of about 25% of the GOP primary electorate, that he can never win over the conservative wing.  Hence the month-by-month hero worship (and inevitable disappointment) of Trump, Bachmann, Perry, Cain, and, now, Gingrich (please, please, please!).  While it's plenty fun to watch the GOP flail around, there is little support for the view that Romney "cannot" win the nomination.

The latest expression of glee came from DailyKos's Jed Lewison, who writes:

"It's very clear that the GOP field is very far from settled. To see a national poll less than two months from Iowa show the leading candidate with just 18% is remarkable and underscores the extent to which Republican voters are still shopping around for a candidate." [my emphasis]

"Remarkable?"  Hardly.

On this very day, four years ago, future GOP nominee John McCain was "trapped" under a support ceiling, clocking in at 15%.

Eight years ago, from Nov 9 - 13, 2003, "the leading candidate" was Howard Dean, with just 14% of poll supporters.

Mr. Lewison could astutely point out that Presidents McCain, Kerry, and Dean all had extremely short terms in office.  That is, "unsettled" polls so close to Iowa are correlated to eventual defeat of the nominee.  It's also worth remembering that the GOP has historically "locked in" its nominee much earlier in the process.  In that sense, 2012 is unusual.  

But there's little reason to think that Romney cannot be the GOP nominee because of his poll standings today.  As I discussed in a recent post, the White House still knows that Romney is the one to beat -- though I think they'll have a lot of trouble doing it.

(For betting folk -- not that I am one -- I would gladly take Romney as GOP nominee at 70% and would delightedly short Gingrich at Intrade's current 11% chance of nomination.  That Gingrich number is madness. I recommended a short of Mr. Cain at 9% pre-harassment scandal to friends about 3 weeks ago; it's now at 4.5%.  I would also take GOP to win the Presidency at its current 47% odds.)

Currently majoring in Business & Public Policy at The Wharton School's MBA program, Andrew Solomon is one of the founding Board members of ACT NOW. He oscillates between voicing views that earn him censure and biting his tongue for the good of all (including himself). He summarizes his political philosophy as "progressive ends, pragmatic means." You can reach him at solomon [at]  More by Andrew at

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Comment Preferences

  •  Jed has it right. Republican primary (8+ / 0-)

    voters do not prefer Romney to other more conservative candidates.  

    Polling demonstrates that given the choice of the field, Republicans are disinclined to support Romney.  The percentages appear to be steady in the low to mid 20s over a significant period of time.  Despite volatility in the surge campaigns of Bachmann, Perry, Cain, etc., Romney's numbers have not moved.  

    They have not moved because Republican voters, when asked, indicate that they prefer another candidate.  

  •  Maybe (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skohayes, Supavash

    The lack of support their primary voters give their "frontrunner" is not so much that Willard can't win the nomination, that his support is very shallow.

    You offer McSame as a candidate in a similar situation.  How deep was his support with the base?  Not very.  How broad was his support?  He gave up an electoral vote in Nebraska.  

    The real discussion/conclusion here SHOULD be projecting if Rombot can actually consolidate the party base into something resembling a coalition he may need if he attempts to win the nomination.  Or is he just turning into another noun-verb-911.  Too soon to tell which, but that should be clearer as the first contests are just over a month away.

    Nice start to an analysis, but maybe you should try Temple, where we teach how to draft complete thoughtful analyses.

  •  Mitt's 70% on Intrade number seems about right -- (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Blicero, Supavash, nextstep

    and testifies IMO that Romney remains the CW 'inevitable' candidate -- that is, I don't hear too many thoughtful commentators declaring that this current 'ceiling' means he CAN'T get the nomination.  It just means that conservatives remain deeply lukewarm about him, and that he'd be in trouble for the nom IF any of the alternatives were less of a joke.  

    So he'll get the nomination, but in the general election nobody will go the polls on fire for Mittens.   Nobody but a few hedge-fund managers and some Mormons.   If Mitt gets the nod he will need to pick a fiery winger as running mate for the same reason that McCain did.  And we'll see how well that works out for him.  

    In the end, I do think you're right in your other post to suggest that this will be more like 04 than anything else, with Obama now playing the incumbent with tons of $$ and a solid national field organization, and a wild scramble on both sides to define the challenger.   In the end I think Obama wins by 4-5% of popular vote but probably lots of EVs.  

  •  The real model is 1996 (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BarackStarObama, skohayes

    In 1996, Bob Dole was the establishment candidate. It was his turn, and that means a lot - if not everything - in GOP primaries. The hard right didn't like him, for several reasons, and his poll numbers were lackluster throughout the pre-primary season in late 1995. But there was no right-wing alternative with any credibility to speak of, and the candidates who were available on the hard right promised a disaster in November if nominated. So although Dole's numbers didn't look great, he managed to win Iowa; and when Pat Buchanan won New Hampshire, it scared the daylights out of the GOP establishment (and rightly so) and they rallied behind Dole.

    I'll go out on a limb here and say if Cain, Gingrich or Bachmann wins anything up through South Carolina, we'll see a repeat of that: the right won't like Romney, but they'll vote for him out of fear that anything else would guarantee Obama a second term - which it probably will.

    Certaines personnes disent qu'il y a une femme à blâmer, Mais je sais que c'est ma faute sacrément.

    by RamblinDave on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 03:07:07 AM PST

  •  I was going to recommend until I read your bio (0+ / 0-)

    See the losers in the best bars, meet the winners in the dives -Neil Young

    by danoland on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 03:34:22 AM PST

    •  Because he's at wharton? (0+ / 0-)

      What's so vain about saying you go there?

      •  Danoland, that's an absurd response (0+ / 0-)

        I don't know whether you're dismissing me because I'm in a business program (in which case I would say that you need to think hard about whether you want to stereotype / alienate everyone based on their affiliation with business) or because I said I'm in a business program (which is simply the case).  Either way, it strikes me as sad that that would be your response.

        That said, I think it's worth at least acknowledging that business schools have often not done a good job of making those with progressive values or aspirations feel welcome.  They've also done a poor job historically in making sure that their graduates have the skills and values to do something positive in the world.  So, to that extent, I take the point that I think you might have been making.

  •  How does this diary have anything to do (4+ / 0-)

    with the myth of the Mitt Romney ceiling? It offers no evidence that he can break out of the polling doldrums he's been in for the past year. It is also makes no sense. Howard Dean was never the nominee, so no one will ever know if he could consolidate the base in the general. It also refers to John Kerry but never references any polling that suggested that he had a ceiling of support with the base. And John McCain lost in the general, in part because he couldn't sell it to the base, which helped to drive the narrative that he couldn't win.

  •  you neglect the xtianista primary base that will (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    never ever ever vote for mormon

    to them voting for a mormon is equivalent to voting for anti-christ

    xtianista preachers priests etc preach from their pulpits that mormonrs worship a different jeeeeebus from them and how to "save" the mormon missionaries that come to their doors

    It is the elephant in the room

    •  I agree (3+ / 0-)

      Even if Romney is the nominee, it opens the door for a candidate from the Christian Right to come onto the national scene as an indpendent and say "hey, you can't vote for a librul sekret Moozlum or that Mormon. Vote for me!". If an Anti-Romney is the nominee, it opens the door for a moderate, corporatist type (i.e. Bloomberg) to run as an independent and pull votes from the center right. Either way, it would kill the GOP's chance of winning the presidency.

    •  I don't know (0+ / 0-)

      In '04, the war hero became the coward, and the guy who skipped out on the "Champagne Corp" became the war hero. It's not that far fetched to think that maybe, Romney's election will save him, or something else dumb.

      "A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself." - Joseph Pulitzer

      by CFAmick on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 07:52:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  so true... (0+ / 0-)

    ...what people keep forgetting is that those on the right are  100% dogmatic and committed to their so-called long as it suits them; however, once their convoluted minds go into action, they can justify pretty much anything...if Mitt Romney wins the GOP nomination, the vast, overwhelming majority of those who claim to detest and hate him, will be out singing his praises this fall as dramatically better than his opponent...among all other kinds of rationalizations? Most right wingers care about one thing...winning elections and making sure there are as few Democrats in office as possible. They'll never admit to that...but it's true.

    •  Is that what they said (0+ / 0-)

      when they dumped Mike Castle in Delaware and Lisa Murkowski in Alaska?

      •  This is what I keep going back to... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Remediator, Supavash

        ...when I look at Mitten's chances. He has far from closed the deal with his party's base, and like what happened in Senate primaries in Delaware and Nevada (among other places), Republican primary voters are more likely to nominate an outright kook rather than a seeming (to some) "moderate" like Romney. Given that, I cannot see Romney getting anywhere close to the majority number of delegates needed to win the nomination.

        "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Gandhi

        by alaprst on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 07:54:58 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Good point. The Baggers and other (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          sundry crazy people who are the most motivated of Republican primary voters are not keen on Romney and will take any shot they can to replace his "inevitable" nomination with someone as crazy as they are.  

          Romney's lucky that the field is crowded with crazies and his support is steady, but unlucky in that as Jed pointed out earlier on this site, if opposition to Romney solidifies, Romney's done for.

      •  they stood by the primary winner (0+ / 0-)

        in both of those cases and most of them usually do stand by the primary winner...

        •  They who? (0+ / 0-)

          The party did at least nominally, but the people certainly didn't. Christine O'Donnell did not solidify Republican support after she won the primary. Joe Miller and Lisa Murkowski split the GOP vote between teabaggers & more moderates, and I have no doubt that democrats and their fear of a Senator Joe Miller pushed Murkowski across the line in the general.

  •  yeah, mitt will win the nom, get crushed by Obama (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    if mitt chooses McDonneld of VA as his running mate he will win VA.  he'll do 20 evs better than magoo but lose by a wider popular vote margin.

    you totally disregard the fact that romney's battlefield is tiny!  no way he even campaigns in Wisconsin, MN, Il, the Northeast [but for NH], and he'll lose Ohio and probably florida.

    Obama will outspend and outorganize him in those states 3-1.

    My best guess was a reflection that did not look back, an image lost in every mirror.

    by Zacapoet on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 10:19:40 AM PST

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