Gallup’s Tracking Poll yesterday showed Mitt with a new nationwide lead, but that’s just window-dressing (note the link is to the poll as updated daily, so the results may have changed by the time you click on it; for the story at CNN click here).
More importantly, since the nomination is won state by state, the real story is that PPP‘s polling today showed Mitt up 39% to 37% in Michigan:
Mitt Romney’s taken a small lead over Rick Santorum in PPP’s newest Michigan poll. He’s at 39% to 37% for Santorum, 13% for Ron Paul, and 9% for Newt Gingrich. Compared to a week ago Romney’s gained 6 points, while Santorum’s just stayed in place.
Even better news, however, is that Mitt may have a lead in early voting that Santorum could find hard to overcome:
Romney will go into election day with a large lead in the bank. Only 16% of Michigan voters say they’ve already cast their ballots, but Romney has a whooping 62-29 advantage over Santorum with that group. Santorum actually leads Romney 39-34 with those who are planning to cast their votes on Tuesday, but he’d need to win election day voters by even more than that to neutralize the advantage Romney’s built up.
As I’ve been opining here on MittRomneyCentral, Santorum’s very socially conservative comments appear to be doing him damage, even among those that are inclined to agree with him (and I thought the damage would be mostly with the independents; also note who’s running the negative ads):
The last week of the campaign in Michigan has seen significant damage to Santorum’s image with GOP voters in the state. His net favorability has declined 29 points from +44 (67/23) to now only +15 (54/39). Negative attacks on Romney meanwhile have had no negative effect with his favorability steady at +20 (57/37). Two weeks ago Santorum’s net favorability in Michigan was 34 points better than Romney’s. Now Romney’s is 5 points better than Santorum’s. Those kinds of wild swings are the story of the GOP race.
One place Santorum may have hurt himself in the last week is an overemphasis on social issues. 69% of voters say they’re generally more concerned with economic issues this year to only 17% who pick social issues. And with the overwhelming majority of voters more concerned about the economy, Romney leads Santorum 45-30. Santorum’s winning those more concerned about social issues 79-12 but it’s just not that big a piece of the pie.
Mitt is also cutting into Santorum’s lead in key support groups:
Romney has made significant in roads with all of Santorum’s key groups of support. 2 weeks ago Santorum had leads around 30 points with Evangelicals, Tea Party voters, and those describing themselves as ‘very conservative.’ Santorum’s still winning all those groups, but by significantly diminished margins- it’s only 7 points with Evangelicals and Tea Partiers and 10 with ‘very conservative’ Republicans.
So much for not being able to convince the conservative base. Did anyone really believe that? Bueller?
A Few Other Thoughts
Mitt’s Availability to the Press. Interestingly there were two contrasting stories in Politico today, one criticizing Mitt for not appearing on Meet the Press, with the other reporting how available he has been to local talk shows in Michigan. Hmm…if I were running for a national office but the voting was state-by-state, where would I go? National shows or the ones where the voters are? (LOTS MORE AFTER THE BREAK!)
Never mind that the national talk shows play “gotcha” politics to try to create some new headline. David Gregory, who commented on Mitt’s absence from his program, would likely like to have Mitt on to improve ratings. It’s also interesting this comment came out the same day Mitt appeared with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. One notable comment from the Politico article about Mitt doing talk radio shows:
But while Santorum and Gingrich have their fans among the nationally syndicated hosts, for those talkers who have gone toward Romney, the issue is electability.
“The only even vaguely viable candidate is Mitt Romney, and that was the same basis in which I came to McCain last time,” Medved said. “It seemed to me that he was the one guy who had a chance of winning.”
Wasn’t Mitt the Conservative in 2008? What Changed (Hint: it wasn’t Mitt)? I’m still waiting for Rush and Hannity to jump on board with Mitt. While they were supporters in 2008, they haven’t been as quick to show support this time around (some would say there’s even some hostility, or at least a willingness to try and perpetuate the “anyone but Mitt” sentiment). Not that I care all that much about their opinions, since I don’t really listen to them much, but they do seem to influence a lot of others, so it’d be nice to have them on board. From the same Politico article:
The great irony is that, at nearly the same point in the race in 2008, it was Romney who was seen as the conservative alternative to McCain and attracted the support of much of the talk radio community.
“I think now, based on the way the campaign has shaken out, that there probably is a candidate on our side who does embody all three legs of the conservative stool, and that’s Romney,” Limbaugh said on Feb. 5, 2008. “The three legs of the stool are national security/foreign policy, the social conservatives and the fiscal conservatives.”
Romney dropped out of the race at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 7 but not before much of syndicated talk radio, including Hannity, Levin, Beck and Michael Savage voiced their support for Romney, as Medved pointed out in the Daily Beast in November.
Laura Ingraham introduced him at that year’s CPAC as “a conservative’s conservative.” Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) endorsed him and praised his Massachusetts health plan as “innovative,” long before DeMint became a top tea party figure who has railed against President Barack Obama’s health plan.
Medved argues that it’s not Romney who changed, but the party.
“I don’t think there’s any question that the Republican party has shifted to the right,” he said.
I think it’s worth reminding everyone at this point that in 2008 Romneycare was considered a conservative plan, so much so that it didn’t bother any of these conservative commenters, nor Rick Santorum (whose 2008 endorsement of Mitt was post-Romneycare). One last interesting note in that article was that Clear Channel is owned by Bain Capital, in which Mitt is a part owner, and Clear Channel in turn owns the company that syndicates Rush, Hannity and Glenn Beck. Yet somehow these commenters seem anti-Mitt. One radio show consultant’s take?
“Radio’s prominent righties want the president to get reelected because it’s gonna be much better for business,” he said. “Talk radio always thrives when the party is on the outs.”
Cynical, yes, but a rationale for why some of the commentators furthest to the right may still not be all-in with a very qualified candidate like Mitt. Plus to appeal to their listeners they have to go to the furthest extreme right.
Is Anyone Else Noticing that Rick Santorum Seems to Just Be Lying at this Point?
I listen to Fox News on the radio from time to time. Actually in the car I have Sirius XM and switch constantly between Fox News, CNN, POTUS (an XM political station) and MSNBC looking for Mitt news. I’ve now heard a Santorum ad on Fox a couple times that says it’d be a disaster to nominate Mitt since when he had the chance he nearly always “sided with Obama.” Examples cited were Obamacare and cap and trade. Of course Obamacare is purely Obama’s doing, even if he followed the Massachusetts model. It’s very clear Mitt never “sided with Obama” on this issue, and Mitt has repeatedly committed to repealing Obamacare. One fact checker also reviewed the claim Mitt supports cap and trade and found it false. I’ve also heard Rick say separately that Mitt is pro-choice and forced Catholic charities to do things against their conscience. It’s obvious to anyone paying attention that Mitt had a conversion on pro-life issues many years ago, like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush did, and subsequently fought for both pro-life issues in Massachusetts and to allow Catholic charities to follow their conscience on issues like adoption. These would be much better lines of attack for Rick if any of these claims were actually true. Too bad for him they’re not. But disturbingly Santorum appears to just be lying at this point to try and win votes. At least that’s how it looks to me, and I’m not sure how he’s getting away with it. Maybe I’ve missed something, but I don’t think I have. I just hope voters are smart enough to figure him out.
Mitt’s Sense of Humor. Again, maybe just me, but I find the guy funny. I understand Mitt’s quite a practical joker as well. I particularly enjoyed this video, despite Chris Matthews’ condescending remarks (you can stop watching when Matthews starts discussing Pawlenty):
Sure it can seem a bit goofy at times, but in the age of Lewis Black, Bill Maher and Jon Stewart, I enjoy some humor that isn’t laced with bad language or sexual content. I think our country could use a little more of the Cleavers! Now I do appreciate some satirical political humor from time to time, but even Stephen Colbert remarked that Mitt’s brand of “weird” is like that annoying guy in high school who was probably the winning quarterback who had all the friends. Check out this link to Colbert’s program for some pretty funny, if irreverent, humor about Mitt, Mormons, himself as a Catholic and the odd poll testing God’s approval ratings.
I guess I just find the press’ narrative (can we stop using this word already?) of Mitt “failing to connect” is just not supported by the facts. The guy has the most popular votes by far in the primaries, and the most delegates. People who meet him seem genuinely impressed and often amused. Even the fake pinch to the backside and the “I’m unemployed too” comments made much earlier in the campaign got laughs from the people who were present, but I guess the press just doesn’t share his sense of humor, even if others do. See this refreshingly honest post at Time for a bit more background. Further to my point, a story ran the other day on CNN that refreshingly told the tale I’m more familiar with from seeing Mitt on the road. According to that report, in a recent stop in Kalamazoo, Mitt had the group in stitches. So forgive me, but I’m getting kind of tired of the story the media keeps coming back to on this. Maybe it’s just my sense of humor is more like Mitt’s and less like the cynics in the back rooms at the MSM outlets.
Santorum Anti-College? While it’s true not everyone will be able to attend college, Santorum’s calling Obama a “snob” for suggesting everyone should have the opportunity to attend comes off as anti-American to me. It’s been proven that college education is a gateway out of poverty. We were pretty solidly middle-class in my family but my dad, who didn’t complete college, ended up “stuck” in the one good job he could find. He didn’t always love that job, but couldn’t move since without a degree he’d lose out in any job competition to the people who were college educated. I vowed as a result to go to college so I’d be more mobile and at least have a choice of jobs. In addition, the stats show that a college education literally pays off. According to a December 2011 article in the Los Angeles Times:
The average take-home pay of college graduates is nearly twice that of their high school counterparts: $38,950 vs. $21,500. Even factoring in student-loan payments, college graduates make more in their first year of work than those with only high school diplomas. And history shows that a college graduate can expect his or her income to increase 2.2% annually over a lifetime vs. 1.9% for the high schooler.
The advantage of college shows most clearly in the vastly different unemployment rates of the two groups: 4.4% in November for collegians compared with 9.6% for those with only high school diplomas (and an abysmal 13.8% for those who never finished high school).
Over 40 years, the college graduate’s earnings would top that of a high-school counterpart by more than $1 million. Financially speaking, college is worthwhile as long as the total four-year cost is less than $715,000, which, at least at the moment, it is.
And isn’t that the conservative line, that people should bring themselves up and not rely on the government? Wouldn’t it significantly help unemployment if more people were college educated, thus shrinking reliance on welfare and unemployment payments? But it seems Rick finds it snobbish to suggest everyone should have the chance to go. I don’t think he really believes that, but it surely seems like a cheap pander to his blue-collar audience that day. Not that there’s anything wrong with an honest day’s physical labor, but I’d assume most people want their kids to have the chance to go to college if they qualify. So while I expect I differ with the president about how to get people into college, I don’t think wanting people to go is “snobbery,” and I expect that argument will flop badly with people in the center of the political spectrum whose fondest dreams include seeing their children graduate from college and fulfill the American dream. Again, this sort of comment, which cuts against common sense, the American dream, most of middle America and conservative principles generally, makes Rick seem unelectable to me. So why does he keep saying this stuff?
Did Rick Kill the Only Rationale for his Presidency? As you probably recall, Rick Santorum’s one word descriptor of himself in the last debate was “courage” (which is a noun, not an adjective, but hey, maybe Rick’s college education didn’t stick). Mitt’s was “resolute.” But later in the debate Rick delivered a much-criticized line that he “took one for the team” and voted against his principles on Title X and No Child Left Behind. It would appear he did the same on a number of other occasions, too. Ron Paul called out the hypocrisy not only with his re-affirming the label that Santorum is “a fake,” but that Santorum conveniently voted for some things while in Congress and is now running against them. While the hypocrisy angle got some good play, I thought the point Ron Paul was really trying to make was that Santorum was assuring himself perpetual power in Washington by voting for things, then running against them. If politicians who created the system can turn around later and run against it under an “outsider” label, doesn’t that perpetuate the problem? Ron Paul thinks so, but the deception works if we don’t call those politicians what they are: insiders. More importantly, though, the only rationale I’ve heard for Santorum’s candidacy is he’s “principled” and the “true conservative.” Us Mitt-ites know Mitt’s plenty conservative (enough for Rush and Hannity in 2008), but if you were considering voting for Santorum because he was “principled,” are you still voting for him now that you’ve heard he’ll vote against his principles when it’s expedient? Doesn’t sound like courage to me. Santorum was never running on his economic plan, executive experience or ability to understand or turn around the economy. Those are big enough strikes for me to not consider him viable vs. Mitt. But subtract the one characteristic he could at least try to lay claim to, courage and acting on principle, and I no longer see any justification for his candidacy vs. the other GOP candidates.
Parting Thought. Yes, this has been a long post, but I’ve had a lot on my mind. Again pardon me but I find the whole “Mitt’s rich so he can’t connect” storyline tiresome. When the press started attacking his “two Cadillacs” line from the other night I had a couple reactions. First, I’ll take the political effect of owning two Caddies any day over owning one Audi; Mitt’s doing his patriotic duty to his home state! And second, is anyone really surprised at this point that Mitt’s wealthy? Seriously? And you know what? He’ll likely be wealthy at the time of the election, too (the scandal)! Note that Santorum also pulled down about $1 million a year over the past 4 years. Note as well that while Santorum gave just over 2% to charity, even though Mitt made tens of millions, he still donated 16%, or $7 million, to charity (which is LOTS of money no matter how rich you are). The press wants us to believe we want to be able to sit down and have a beer with the president, or have him be like the guy next door. Well, my next door neighbor is upside down on his mortgage and doesn’t seem a very good manager of his finances (not literally, my neighbor’s a good guy, but you get the idea). I much prefer a guy who’s had more success than me to be my president. It seems, based on votes so far, most people in the GOP still agree with me (thank goodness).