Romney’s Electability Argument Losing Steam

Wednesday, 14 Dec 2011 11:03 AM

By Dan Weil

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One of Mitt Romney’s top selling points in his presidential campaign  has been the electability factor – that he would give the Republican Party its best chance of defeating President Barack Obama. That argument is now being questioned, The Hill reports.

The former Massachusetts governor has presented himself as a candidate who could woo crucial independent voters and some moderate Democrats. But a new Rasmussen Reports poll shows that 49 percent of likely GOP primary voters now give Newt Gingrich the best shot to take down Obama, while only 24 percent choose Romney.

Just a month ago, an ABC survey indicated that 33 percent of Republican voters viewed Romney as most electable, while just 5 percent opted for Gingrich.

But there’s a twist. In one-on-one contests with Obama, Romney performs better in polls of all voters than does Gingrich. For example, in a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey, Romney trails Obama, 47 percent to 45 percent, within the poll’s margin of error, while Gingrich trails, 51 percent to 40 percent.

A Purple Strategist poll of swing states shows Romney faring better than Gingrich against Obama in three of the country’s four regions.

Part of the reason Republicans view Gingrich as more electable than Romney is that they see the former House Speaker as a superior debater. Gingrich’s strong performance in the candidate debates is what vaulted him higher in the polls, and the idea is he could do the same in the general election against Obama.

In addition, some Republicans say Gingrich’s past performances in elections top Romney’s. Gingrich helped lead the GOP takeover of the House in 1994. Romney, meanwhile, received a 17 percentage point drubbing from Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy that year.

And in the 2008 presidential primaries, Romney placed third against  John McCain and Mike Huckabee.

Romney hasn’t been able to break the 30 percent level in polls so far this year.

Then there is the issue of Romney’s wealth. He’s worth several hundred million dollars thanks to his role as co-founder of the Bain Capital private equity firm. And he gave critics grist for the mill when he challenged Texas Gov. Rick Perry to a $10,000 bet in the debate last Saturday.

Democrats already have made hay over that one, sending out a picture with Romney’s face on the front of a $10,000 bill.

Earlier in the campaign, a joke to unemployed Floridians that he’s “also unemployed” didn’t go over too well either. In an election that’s likely to turn on the economy, mistakes like these could prove fatal.

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