Commentary Magazine


Poll: Republicans Just Want the Candidate Who Can Win

The latest Gallup poll today brings more good news for burgeoning frontrunner Mitt Romney. Republicans say they prefer a presidential candidate who can beat President Obama over a candidate that they agree with on the issues, by 50 percent to 44 percent.

And contrary to conventional wisdom, it doesn’t appear to be the staunch right-wingers who are insisting on an ideological litmus test for candidates. Self-described “conservative Republicans” chose the winnable candidate over the issues candidate, 52 percent to 42 percent. In contrast, self-described “liberal/moderate Republicans” favored the candidate who they agreed with on the issues, 51 percent to 43 percent. Conservatives apparently believe that the stakes are too high to let purity get in the way of defeating Obama.

So let’s take a look at where this line of thinking would leave the contenders at the moment. If the primaries were simply based the candidates’ current chances of success in the general election, then Romney would be the hands-down victor. The Real Clear Politics average has Obama edging Romney out 48.2 percent to 42.5, with each of the other candidates losing to Obama by more than 10 points.

In fairness, this is probably because the other candidates don’t have significant name recognition on a national scale yet (with Palin as the one exception – she still loses to Obama by 18 points). But in conjunction with the Gallup poll, these figures will still helps Romney cement his position as frontrunner.

Expect the Democratic National Committee to increase its attacks on his health care plan, in an attempt to turn conservative voters away from him. Also expect beltway conservatives who are uneasy with Romney’s views on health care – and now maybe even foreign policy – to ramp up their efforts to find an acceptable alternative candidate.