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Posted at 07:46 PM ET, 03/23/2012

The 2012 GOP candidates, in a word

Call up a representative sampling of Americans and ask us for our one-word opinions of the four GOP presidential candidates, and the results are, in a word, telling. Revealing. Informative. Nincompoop.

The Washington Post/Pew poll asking Real Americans for Real Opinions on the Very Serious Issue found them to be at odds with the candidates themselves. Asked to describe themselves in one word, the candidates delivered the goods.

Mitt Romney was “resolute.” Rick Santorum was “courage.” Ron Paul was “consistent.” And Newt Gingrich was “cheerful.”

When it came to Actual People’s responses, Ron Paul was the only one who came anywhere close. Five people called him “consistent,” in a poll of a thousand random individuals. None of the other words were in evidence at all.

The top few words have already been hashed over and made into graphics.

Mitt Romney’s most popular word? “No.” Santorum’s? “Conservative.”Newt was “Old,” and Ron Paul was “No” as well. Gee, could we be any more enthused?

But what about the words at the bottom of the heap?

The Post’s data only lists the responses that at least two people offered, which is a pity.

That being said, the responses of the two-in-a-thousand are still interesting. Asked to describe Santorum in a word, three people (perhaps cheekily) picked “Santorum.” Two picked “Sanitorium.” More respondents seemed to have favorable opinions of Santorum than of any other candidate, however, if the more common responses are any indication. 21 said “Good” or “Very Good.” Never mind that “Very Good” is two words. Six called him “Best” or “Better.” Only five said “Scary.” Only two said “Pornography.” (I wondered whether these two had said the same in response to all the candidates, suggesting that their minds were elsewhere. But it came up with only Rick.)

Romney, in a word? Three picked “Gingrich,” perhaps confused as to the point of the exercise.

Newt? “Blowhard” and “Space Cadet.”

What goes through the minds of people answering these polling calls? Asked to describe Ron Paul in a word, two people said, “Bumper Sticker.”

What?

It’s like a Jungian game. It reveals less about the candidates and more about us. What do you see in this inkblot? “Idiot.”

Also, we have no idea how to count. One word? Surely you can’t mean that. More responses than you could shake a stick at contained two or three words — or a whole sentence. “I like him,” people said. “Space cadet. Nice guy. Nice man. No way he’s going to win.”

And we turn out to be pretty mean. These poor men are allowing us to poke and prod them in ways generally reserved for TSA employees, and how do we thank them? Here’s a sampling:

“Jerk. Idiot. Untrustworthy. Crook. Loser. Crazy. Egotistical. Hypocrite. Cheat. Disgusting. Ridiculous. Weird. Pompous. Sucks. Racist. Scary. Slimy/slime ball. Bulldog. Devil. Moron. Obama. Yuck.”

But wait, you say. That’s just Gingrich!

No. Romney fared little better.

“Loser. Stupid. Blah. Cheater. Devil. Empty suit. Joke. Shady. Sucks.”

Sure, there were nicer words. Mainly, people reserved them for Santorum — and Ron Paul, who seemed “fun” and “nuts.” But this doesn’t bode well for the process. We wouldn’t call people those things if we met them on the street. In the comments sections of their blogs, perhaps. But not to their faces.

“Well, you can’t fit a lot of nuance and civility into one word.” Still. Surely there was an era where you wouldn’t have yelped such things into the phone — even if it was only because no such instrument existed.

One word isn’t very subtle, but it certainly does the job. No wonder, in another survey of how they felt about the process, most Americans said they’d like it to be over. And that was in December. I can only imagine how they feel now.

By  |  07:46 PM ET, 03/23/2012

 
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