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]
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.)