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Friday, January 20, 2012

Gingrich Resurgent -- Again

Newt Gingrich has been on a fascinating, dramatic roller coaster ride among Republicans nationwide. His Positive Intensity Score as we measured it at Gallup was high at the beginning of the year, then fell down, then rose up again. His standing in Gallup's nationwide GOP trial heat tracking was up, then down, and is now climbing back up again. Republicans, in essence, keep ditching him, and then coming back to him again. And again.

This past week has seen a virtual cornucopia of high news value events on the Republican campaign trail. We have two candidates who dropped out (Huntsman and Perry), the intense focus on Mitt Romney’s income tax returns/income/job at Bain Capital, the allegations about Gingrich’s moral character from his second wife, a bump for Rick Santorum when recounts suggested that he may have won the Iowa caucuses, and two debates.

Polls in South Carolina now suggest that Gingrich may win that state’s primary. If so, the question is what impact that will have on the feelings of Republicans nationwide, and in the states whose primaries are to follow. At the moment, Romney maintains a lead among Republicans nationally, but one that is rapidly shrinking.  

If Gingrich wins in South Carolina, history suggests he will get a further bump nationally. This means that he may also get a bump in Florida, which holds its primary on Jan. 31. One issue about Florida is that it is a big state and, in many ways, mirrors the national average on important characteristics. For example, it is about average in terms of its religiousness as measured by church attendance. So it's a different playing field than exists in South Carolina. 

People ask me about the impact of Romney and his tax returns. It's probable that the impact is more in how Romney handles the questions that it is his taxes per se. Americans certainly think that upper-income Americans should pay more in taxes and favor increased taxes on the rich. Whether they view Romney more negatively because he is rich and pays less taxes than some might think he should is unclear.

What about the bitter statements from Gingrich’s second wife? Gingrich obviously was able to turn that situation on its head with his well-thought out responses in Thursday night's South Carolina debate with his lash out at CNN and the news media. This type of deflection attempt by politicians is, of course, not new. Hillary Clinton in almost precisely the same way lashed out at what she perceived to be a “vast right wing conspiracy” when the news media were on the trail of her husband Bill’s sexual dalliances. Of course the fact that it’s a common political maneuver doesn’t mean that it isn’t effective. It shows, if nothing else, that Gingrich is a shrewd political operator and able to handle himself on his feet.  The fact that Romney was not able to perform similarly well in response to the questions and criticisms of his work with Bain and his tax returns shows he does not yet appear to have Gingrich's well-honed political instincts. 

Gingrich's strategy at Thursday's debate was particularly shrewd because it fits with Republicans’ views of the media. Republicans dislike the news media, based on our research, and are highly likely to perceive them as too liberal. Thus, Gingrich’s carefully calculated diatribe against the negative media Thursday night no doubt resonated with rank-and-file Republicans nationwide. 

As I’ve noted, South Carolina is a very religious state and one which is predominantly Protestant. The three leading contenders in the state are all not traditional Protestants.  Gingrich and Santorum are Catholics, of which there are relatively few in South Carolina, and Romney is, of course, Mormon, of which there are even fewer. There is, in short, no Mike Huckabee who fits in directly with the predominant religious orientation of voters in the state of South Carolina.

Our recent research on positive intensity shows that Gingrich has a problem nationally with Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who recognize him, 42% of whom have a strongly unfavorable view of him. Santorum also generates strongly negative reactions, with 30% of Democrats who recognize him giving him a strongly unfavorable rating. Romney, on the other hand, has a more benign image among Democrats, with only 16% viewing him unfavorably.  Romney also has a somewhat better Positive Intensity Score among Republicans nationally than does Gingrich.

If there is one thing we have learned so far this election cycle concerning the Republican race, it is that Republicans are this year fluid, flexible, and ever-changing in their views on whom they want to be their party’s nominee. Thus, history suggests that we will see even more change from this point on.

15 comments:

davepinoy said...
January 20, 2012 at 5:27 PM  

another of those "electability" myth....

Anonymous said...
January 20, 2012 at 6:23 PM  

Ron Paul is not in here huh?

Will said...
January 21, 2012 at 7:47 AM  

"Rollercoaster" is right. As shown by this relative chances chart ...http://therepublicannominee.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html

Anonymous said...
January 21, 2012 at 9:01 AM  

It is interesting to me how readers think Gingrich is a sure lozer vs Obama, citing negativity polls on January 21 suggesting he is disliked, can't win, et al.

Meanwhile, the man who was down by 12 points just 7 days ago is set to win South Carolina and Florida.

Go figure. Newt is the only chance of real change Americans know how to live with: lower taxes, less Govt and healthcare vs Obamacare.

Anonymous said...
January 21, 2012 at 9:20 AM  

As a political science professor, I found this debate fascinating. Gingrich was brilliant in his accurate excoriation of the news media. It reminds me of what I inculcate to my pol. sci. 101 students every semester. To accurately understand contempory American politics,you must understand "that the elite liberal media serves as the offensive team of the left, and the democrats serve as the defensive team of the left."
Can you say rigged game???

Anonymous said...
January 21, 2012 at 9:58 AM  

While I applaud the relative balance in this piece, I believe you are missing a significant point it might be well worth examining--the effect of disaffection with both parties. The two-party system seems to be splintering into conservative and liberal camps and there are participants in those camps from both parties. While the two parties are institutionalized in our political system and difficult to dislodge, many, many people are disgusted with both and looking for alternatives. How that plays out and its effect in the Republican primaries will be significant and interesting.

21caff68-4448-11e1-9180-000bcdcb471e said...
January 21, 2012 at 10:54 AM  

If, as your later polling suggests, Gingrich not only wins South Carolina, but wins it by a substantial margin - say, greater than a 10 percent margin (35-25, for example) - I think this becomes a much bigger force.

It ceases to be merely the 'tight race' that Romney's staff are (now) assuring us they knew it would be, and becomes a clear, decisive win for Gingrich. It becomes a rejection of Romney at a level not seen since... 2008.

"Bump" then becomes an understatement for the national ripple effect. While I doubt it would be enough to lead to Romney's dropping from the race, it sure will make the rest of the Spring a lot more interesting.

21caff68-4448-11e1-9180-000bcdcb471e said...
January 21, 2012 at 10:54 AM  

If, as your later polling suggests, Gingrich not only wins South Carolina, but wins it by a substantial margin - say, greater than a 10 percent margin (35-25, for example) - I think this becomes a much bigger force.

It ceases to be merely the 'tight race' that Romney's staff are (now) assuring us they knew it would be, and becomes a clear, decisive win for Gingrich. It becomes a rejection of Romney at a level not seen since... 2008.

"Bump" then becomes an understatement for the national ripple effect. While I doubt it would be enough to lead to Romney's dropping from the race, it sure will make the rest of the Spring a lot more interesting.

Anonymous said...
January 21, 2012 at 12:08 PM  

It looks like South Carolinians are going to confirm what people all over the country think of them, and of Southerners in general, by giving Gingrich a victory in their primary today. They will never live it down, in the sense their cherished reputation of being the state that picks the Republican nominee and Republican presidents will go down the toilet, and I hope for good. Gingrich obviously will never be president. Anybody who thinks he will be is a moron, plain and simple. I despise stupidity and hypocrisy, and these supposedly morally upright Christian South Carolinians will prove themselves rife with both by putting forward one Newton Leroy Gingrich as their chosen standard-bearer.

Dean Esmay said...
January 21, 2012 at 1:27 PM  

It's hard to read how much of Gingrich's rise is due to efforts of Republicans to find a nominee who is not Romney and how much is due to Gingrich's own easily-underestimated talents as a campaigner. An interesting poll question might be "Do you think Gingrich has the ability to be a good executive manager?" Someone might call that a "push" question, so perhaps the phrasing would need to be more neutral, but it would be interesting to see if voters (Republican or general electorate) think Gingrich would make a competent President. I strongly suspect that this will be one of the biggest questions voters ask in the long run, even if Republicans at the moment appear to be more concentrated on finding an alternative to Romney.

Anonymous said...
January 21, 2012 at 6:06 PM  

Does Paul not fit in with the "religious orientation" of South Carolina voters, or is he just not a candidate anymore?
13 mentions of Gingrich
9 mentions of Romney
3 mentions of Santorum
0 mentions of Paul...

dseawell said...
January 21, 2012 at 6:11 PM  

Is breaking marriage commitments conservative? Can we trust Newt, if his wives cannot?

Anonymous said...
January 21, 2012 at 11:02 PM  

These are the issues I have with Newt. While some may find them to be trivial, they are what sticks.
1. Hypocrisy: While I don’t condone what President Clinton did, but Newt was one of his main critics during the Lewinsky scandal. Newt was having an affair while charging President Clinton, while there are a few differences (like Clinton lying under oath). I just can’t get past the fact Newt was doing the same thing.
2. Bain Capital: Capitalism, Free Markets, and good old hard work are what help make this a great country. While we hate negative ads, they are used and to tell the truth they work. Newt decided to attack Capitalism and Mitt. He even touted the ad and “documentary” a super pac was going to run as telling truths about Mitt Romney. After they ran the Washington Post gave them 4 Pinocchios due to the documentary and ads’ lack of valid facts and research. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/four-pinocchios-for-king-of-bain/2012/01/12/gIQADX8WuP_blog.html Newt then called upon the Super Pac to either edit the film and ads and make the corrections necessary or pull them. Newt should have remembered that once a bell has rung, it cannot be undone.
3. Job Creation: Newt claims that due to the laws he helped pass while in congress, he has created millions of jobs and then scoffs at Mitt’s assertion that he has created over a 100,000 jobs. The truth is laws and regulations do not create jobs. A company will hire and expand based on their bottom line. Laws and regulations may make it easier or harder, but does not create. Mitt may have destroyed jobs and may have created jobs, even if they compute all the numbers and it comes out that the grand total of jobs Mitt has created is 1, that is more jobs than Newt and Obama have created combined.
4. Maturity: Newt has stated that it took his 3rd wife, grandchildren, and his conversion to Catholism to help him mature and make wise decisions. I am not sure, due to some of his current actions, if he has achieved that goal. Rick Santorum is a decade or more his junior and Mitt is approximately the same age, they matured as they grew up and it didn’t take 40+ years after they became adults to do it.

Anonymous said...
January 22, 2012 at 12:37 PM  

Go Newt go. Let's teach Romney a lesson again in Florida that there is something Money can never buy - the presidential election!

Anonymous said...
January 28, 2012 at 11:57 AM  

It's over for Romney. I predict Florida breaks heavy for Gingrich, and ends the Romney sham.

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