* Dan Balz’s dive into the history shows Newt Gingrich’s vow to take it to the convention could badly splinter the GOP, though Republican strategists predict party unity will ultimately prevail.
* For all the talk about Obama as elitist, a new Post poll finds that 55 percent say he understands the problems of average Americans — versus only 39 percent say the same about Mitt Romney.
The Post polling team provides me with the partisan breakdown. Among independents, 53 percent say Obama understands the problems of average Americans, versus only 39 percent of independents who say the same about Romney. Forty-six percent say he doesn’t.
ICYMI: Romney’s negatives have spiked 20 points among independents in the last two months in NBC/WSJ polling, and one of NBC’s pollsters tells me this could be because the attacks on his corporate background and low tax rates are leading them to conclude “this isn’t my guy.”
* Obama reelect reality check of the day: Despite that slide among indys, Gallup finds that Obama and Romney are statistically tied among registered voters in a dozen swing states.
* Laura Clawson has a good technical explainer on why unions have concluded the “compromise” Senate Dems reached with the House GOP on the FAA reauthorization will make organizing so much harder.
* The final statement calling on Senate Dems to pull out of the deal, and the full list of 18 unions who have signed on, is right here.
* Fun fact of the day, courtesy of the Wesleyan Media Project: Romney and his allies have aired some 13,000 TV spots in Florida, versus all of ... 200 pro-Gingrich ones. Dems will cite this to counter talk about Romney’s strength post-Florida.
* Pew finds that Republicans are only getting more dissatisfied with their presidential candidates as GOPers get to know them better, raising questions about GOP enthusiasm this fall.
* Steve Kornacki on the six reasons Gingrich continues to insist he’ll stay in it until the bitter end, damn the costs to the GOP. My favorite: “Pure spite.”
* Really? Bipartisanship is dead? Politico delivers the grim news:
The striking fact about Washington at the start of 2012 is how many people, in public and private, say they have concluded that the capital is no longer a city of splittable differences.
Of course, some people had figured this out all the way back in 2009, but no one listened to them.
* The next gay rights frontier: Half of Maryland residents favor same sex marriage, with one sticking point being that a majority of African Americans remain opposed.
* Philip Klein on another key thing that annoys conservatives about Romney’s defense of Romneycare: His claim that the mandate is rooted in tough conservative principles about “personal responsibility.”
* And the history lesson of the day: Guess who pioneered the idea, now prominent in Mitch McConnell’s playbook, that obstructionism and government dysfunction help the minority politically? Newt Gingrich.