The Electability Factor

Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, the current Republican frontrunners

What’s the top issue for Republicans looking to the 2012 election? While the economy, jobs, and immigration are all valid responses, defeating President Obama is a top priority for a number of Republicans. Knowing this, the rise of Gingrich has really surprised me. I’ve already taken a look at some of the issues with Romney, but his list of faults seems small when compared to all of the baggage that comes with nominating Newt.

Once the Republicans have their nominee, jobs and the economy will take the stage as the main issue. This would be a big strength for Romney—he won’t be shy in touting his experience in the private sector and making it clear that he knows how to create jobs. Merge that with his executive experience and I think he has a great case going for him. Newt does not have the kind of experience. Like Obama, he comes from a legislatorial background and hasn’t turned around businesses like Mitt has. Romney will admit that he’s made mistakes, but has learned from them. Newt’s described himself as an historian, and I think that’s a little too similar to the attack line Republicans have waged against Obama—calling him too professorial. At least Obama becomes a populist on the campaign trail—I don’t think Newt has an off switch to his professorial tone.

In the Republican primaries, healthcare is Romney’s Achilles’ heel. But if Romney can make is through to the general, his healthcare record won’t be as big of a deal—at least for independent voters. Romney just needs to make sure that the Republican base is excited to vote on Election Day, and a more-conservative VP nominee would help with that. This is starting to sound like the 2008 Republican ticket, but with disenfranchised democrats staying home and independents looking for an alternative, it could work this time.

Both Gingrich and Romney have some serious issues with consistency—so that’s a wash. On top of that, Newt will be hit on his ties to Freddie Mac, his marriage infidelity, and even some recent comments such as calling child labor laws “stupid.” Newt does a lot of off-the-cuff speaking, and if I’d be worried about his discipline to stay on-message and avoid controversial remarks. Romney’s playing-it-safe certainly makes for a more boring candidate, but he also comes across as more serious. Newt may be an “idea factory,” but I want to know what ideas he’ll actually fight for as president.

I’ve already alluded to it, but the most important factor in electability is grabbing independent votes, and stealing as many as possible from Obama. Where we currently stand, Romney polls about 2 percentage points below President Obama in a hypothetical general election matchup, and Newt comes in about 8 points behind. The good news for Newt is that he’s already closed the gap from when the difference was 15 points, but he still has a long way to go. Romney has actually polled above Obama within the past few months. In the months ahead, Romney would really just have to seal the deal, while Newt would need to be hard at work making his case. [Source: RealClearPolitics]

One saving grace for Newt may be his willingness to debate President Obama. He’s continually called for seven three-hour, un-moderated debates with the President. I would really like to see how those play out. Obama performed well in the 2008 debates, but traditional debates move quickly and don’t go in-debt on the issues. Both men are intellectuals, and I’d like to see Obama defend his record, in-detail, in front of the American people. An Obama-Romney matchup would likely be a standard affair where each man holds their own.

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