I Get Emails: Why Are You So Convinced Mitt Isn’t Electable?


From an email I received yesterday,

“I don’t understand why you are so convinced Romney cannot win a general election. Rasmussen has had a couple of polls out in the last couple of months that actually have him slightly ahead of Hillary. And even the USA Today Gallup poll had him well within striking distance (only down 4 or 5 I think). You talk about some polls that have him tied in states McCain wins by 20 points but thats explained by name I.D. at this early stage in the game. Look at it this way, if Romney won Fl and wrapped up on super Tuesday who do you think the American people will enjoy looking at for nine months, Mitt and his family or Hillary and Bill? I knno he probably will not have the appeal to Indies and Mods that McCain would but I just simply don’t understand why you say he can’t win in the general?

P.S.: I’m not a Mitt supporter (was a Fredhead but am now just setting back watching it play out) I’m just asking a question to something I don’t entirely get your reasoning behind and wish you’d elaborate.” — Varnell II, William Michael

Let me explain in more detail why I don’t think Mitt can win a general election.

Hillary and Obama have a lot of flaws, but given the mood of the country, Bush’s job approval rating, and the unhappiness of the Republican base, the Democratic candidate will have a strong wind at their back in 2008. So, it is going to be a tough environment for whoever the GOP candidate ultimately turns out to be.

With that in mind, let’s take a harder look at Mitt. To begin with, there is of course, the Mormon issue, which I’ll recap with an excerpt from a column I wrote that covered the subject,

Like most Americans, I would happily walk into the voting booth and cast a vote for a Mormon to be President of the United States. Unfortunately, a significant block of Americans who consider Mormons to be part of a heretical Christian cult, rightly or wrongly, won’t vote a Mormon into the White House.

For example, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll back in June of 2006 found that 37 percent of Americans said “that they would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate.” Similarly, in a February of 2007, USA Today poll, 24% of American adults flat out said that they would not vote for a Mormon who ran for the presidency.

Those numbers, which are none too cheery for Mitt backers become even more grim when you consider the very real possibility that many of the people who say that they won’t vote for a Mormon may be Christians who typically vote Republican, but won’t cast their vote for someone whom they consider to be part of a cult. This survey of Christians at ChristiaNet.com would seem to support that theory. 59% of the 2000 Christians surveyed “claimed they would not vote to elect a Mormon for president.”

So, 24% to 37% of the public (and perhaps a higher percentage of Christians) say that they won’t vote for a Mormon President. Let’s assume that 80% of them, when confronted with a choice between Mitt Romney and let’s say Hillary Clinton, will change their mind and vote for him. Given the political environment and the closeness of the last two elections, can we still get a Republican elected if roughly 4.8% – 7.4% of the population decides that they won’t even consider voting for Mitt because of his religion? Fair, unfair, right, wrong, it is what it is. I have brown hair, but if 24%-37% of the general public said they wouldn’t vote for someone with brown hair, I would counsel caution about running someone with brown hair.

Next up, I would note that I think that in an effort to capture the Republican nomination, Mitt has ended up getting the worst of both worlds. By that, I mean that he was originally billed as a Northerner who could help the GOP win states that it wasn’t able to capture in the last two elections. But, in order to win, Mitt has shifted a lot of positions to try to come across as more of a conventional conservative. The upshot of this is that a lot conservatives doubt his bona fides while simultaneously, he has moved far enough to the right to cease appealing to more moderate and independent voters who might help him capture blue states.

What this has led to is weak numbers for Mitt everywhere, but particularly in Southern states, where there are more evangelical Christians and where the fact that he’s a slick Northerner from Massachusetts really works against him.

Now, I will grant you that it’s very early and that the polling numbers will obviously change a lot between now and November of this year. Additionally, Mitt probably is at a bit of a disadvantage compared to people like John McCain and Hillary Clinton, who have near universal name recognition.

That being said, the head-to-head polling that has been done does have some relevance and as you’re about to see, Mitt’s numbers are absolutely horrible.

What I’m going to do is show you some SurveyUSA head-to-head polling data that features John McCain, Mike Huckabee, and Mitt Romney all going up against Hillary Clinton. I’m including McCain because he currently (and consistently for that matter) has the best Republican numbers by far and I am including Huckabee because he should have similar (probably weaker actually) name recognition to Mitt. I’m not going to include every poll (and they haven’t polled everywhere either), but I think this will be a representative sample that will give you a good idea of Romney’s strength.

All 3 candidates lose

State: Massachusetts
Date of poll: 1/23/08
2004 Results: Kerry (62%) vs. Bush (37%)

McCain (45%) vs. Clinton (49%)
Romney (35%) vs. Clinton (59%)
Huckabee (30%) vs. Clinton (63%)

McCain and Huckabee win, Romney loses

State: Kentucky
Date of poll: 01/07/08
2004 Results: Kerry (40%) vs. Bush (60%)

McCain (51%) vs. Clinton (41%)
Romney (42%) vs. Clinton (48%)
Huckabee (53%) vs. Clinton (41%)

State: Missouri
Date of poll: 01/14/08
2004 Results: Kerry (46%) vs. Bush (53%)

McCain (50%) vs. Clinton (44%)
Romney (42%) vs. Clinton (49%)
Huckabee (47%) vs. Clinton (45%)

McCain wins, Huckabee and Romney loses

State: Iowa
Date of poll: 1/07/08
2004 Results: Kerry (49%) vs. Bush (50%)

McCain (48%) vs. Clinton (44%)
Romney (44%) vs. Clinton (48%)
Huckabee (45%) vs. Clinton (47%)

State: Kansas
Date of poll: 1/18/08
2004 Results: Kerry (37%) vs. Bush (62%)

McCain (53%) vs. Clinton (40%)
Romney (44%) vs. Clinton (47%)
Huckabee (46%) vs. Clinton (47%)

State: Minnesota
Date of poll: 1/23/08
2004 Results: Kerry (51%) vs. Bush (48%)

McCain (49%) vs. Clinton (45%)
Romney (40%) vs. Clinton (51%)
Huckabee (42%) vs. Clinton (50%)

State: New Mexico
Date of poll: 1/23/08
2004 Results: Kerry (49%) vs. Bush (50%)

McCain (51%) vs. Clinton (42%)
Romney (45%) vs. Clinton (48%)
Huckabee (46%) vs. Clinton (47%)

State: Ohio
Date of poll: 1/07/08
2004 Results: Kerry (49%) vs. Bush (51%)

McCain (48%) vs. Clinton (46%)
Romney (41%) vs. Clinton (49%)
Huckabee (46%) vs. Clinton (47%)

State: Oregon
Date of poll: 1/14/08
2004 Results: Kerry (52%) vs. Bush (48%)

McCain (49%) vs. Clinton (45%)
Romney (38%) vs. Clinton (54%)
Huckabee (40%) vs. Clinton (54%)

State: Virginia
Date of poll: 1/18/08
2004 Results: Kerry (46%) vs. Bush (54%)

McCain (52%) vs. Clinton (43%)
Romney (43%) vs. Clinton (51%)
Huckabee (43%) vs. Clinton (50%)

State: Washington
Date of poll: 1/14/08
2004 Results: Kerry (53%) vs. Bush (46%)

McCain (49%) vs. Clinton (46%)
Romney (38%) vs. Clinton (54%)
Huckabee (40%) vs. Clinton (54%)

State: Wisconsin
Date of poll: 1/23/08
2004 Results: Kerry (50%) vs. Bush (49%)

McCain (49%) vs. Clinton (45%)
Romney (41%) vs. Clinton (50%)
Huckabee (44%) vs. Clinton (48%)

What you’ll notice is that McCain actually looks very strong against Hillary and takes states that Kerry won in 2004. Of course, his numbers would likely drop as the MSM turned against him and the conservative media refused to give him more than tepid support.

On the other hand, Huckabee’s initial numbers are significantly weaker than McCain’s numbers. But, he could possibly win using a strategy similar to the one Bush used in 2000 and 2004: take the whole South and win just enough other crucial states to pull it out. It would definitely be an uphill battle though.

Then there is Mitt, who is weak EVERYWHERE and judging by how poor his numbers are in Kentucky and Missouri, I suspect he would end up putting several Southern states in jeopardy without putting a significant number of new states into play.

Now, some people may just write these polls off because they’re telling them something that they don’t want to hear, but the reality is that these numbers probably give you a very rough idea of about where each of these candidates would be when the general election campaign begins.

In my opinion, Mitt would start out in a hole that would probably be too deep for him to ever climb out of given the political environment. Maybe that’s not the case. In fact, if Mitt is the nominee, I certainly hope it won’t be the case. But, hope generally doesn’t get you very far in politics…

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