While I still expect Mitt Romney to be the Republican nominee for president, I have to admit that data such as this, from a recent Quinnipiac poll of registered Republican or Republican-leaning voters, give me pause:
Three out of four believe it’s more important to nominate someone who shares their beliefs on the issues rather than someone capable of beating the hated Obama? At first, I thought that must be some anomaly, something gone awry with the polling. But I checked around and found a CBS poll that asked a similar question this month.
Again, “58 percent said they believe it’s more important to have a nominee who agrees with them on the issues than one who can beat Mr. Obama next year. Thirty-nine percent said the opposite.”
That’s not the 74-24 split reported in the Quinnipiac poll, but it’s still an overwhelming margin. It helps to explains why Karl Rove and others among the party’s Washington elite seem more and more frustrated by Romney’s inability to close the deal. It also explains why certain well-connected conservative columnists are becoming increasingly harsh in their attacks on Newt Gingrich (see here and here).
They fear, with good cause, that the GOP is at least open to another “Goldwater moment,” in which it selects a champion based on emotional resonance with the base rather than his chances of success come November. That’s the opening through which Gingrich hopes to wriggle. If you look at their records, he’s no more conservative than Romney. But he is better equipped, both emotionally and rhetorically, to give GOP voters the red meat that they crave.
– Jay Bookman