I wanted to do a quick run-down of the mass of polling information which has come in over the last 48 hours about the presidential primary and general election races. Taken together they reveal a highly, highly volatile and difficult to predict race. Newt’s still surging over the entire GOP field. But he looks likely to hit a brick wall if and when he comes into contact with Barack Obama.
Let’s start with what we knew as of this morning.
Everywhere but New Hampshire Newt Gingrich has opened up big leads over Mitt Romney. In states like South Carolina and and Florida, the leads are massive. In Florida Newt is at close to 50%. In South Carolina he’s in the mid-30s. And he’s in a similar position nationwide. What’s most telling about these numbers — vs. Mitt Romney — is that Romney has been relatively unaffected by Newt’s rise. Newt’s numbers are the product of drawing down virtually everyone else who’s surged or put together any level of support up until this point. In other words, he’s unified the entire non-Mitt vote.
If you look at the sheer scope of Newt’s rise (far higher than Bachmann or Perry or Cain ever got) it’s difficult to see how Romney can catch up with him in the time left before the kick-off races in early January. Yes, he can blunt Newt’s support (and as we’ll see he’s already starting to do it in Iowa). But there’s a huge amount of ground to make up.
Today, though, we got two new polls out of Iowa that show Newt’s support leveling off substantially. What’s more, one of those pollsters (PPP) showed Newt’s negatives rising pretty quickly among Iowa Republicans. That’s not terribly surprising since both Ron Paul and Mitt Romney have been hammering Newt in the state for the last week-plus. But it’s Ron Paul who’s building support not Romney. Romney’s still going down in the two most recent polls.
Then tonight we got this big new poll from WSJ/NBC which shows Newt’s rise continuing unabated nationwide, hitting 40%. But this new poll tells us in statistics what many of us think we know intuitively: that Newt is so toxic to the general electorate that it would be extremely challenging for him to win against almost anyone. WSJ/NBC has Obama beating Romney by 2 points and Gingrich by 11. More damaging, 50% of voters in this poll say they will not vote for Gingrich, period. 45% say that about Obama and 44% about Romney. They both have some room for maneuver; Newt seems to have none.
Look closer at the internal breakdown of support and non-support for Newt and you see he’s the perfect candidate for President. But President of the Republican Party, not the United States. Once you get out of the GOP, Newt remains an extremely toxic figure.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.