If the principal concern of GOP voters is electability, then Mitt Romney will have a huge leg up. In the RealClearPolitics average, he trails President Obama by 1.9 percent. Newt Gingrich trails Obama by 11. Rick Santorum, who has the excuse of being less well known, trails Obama by 9.5 points.
If the issue is whether Romney or Santorum is more electable, you have an interesting debate. Santorum will turn off upscale, more secular voters but cut into Obama’s share of working-class voters. Romney gets the suburbans and upscale singles but will arguably have a harder time with blue-collar voters.
But if the choice is between Gingrich or Obama, it’s hard to imagine it being close. Gingrich doesn’t have Santorum’s blue collar appeal, and Evangelicals would have to swallow hard before voting for him. And he frankly is a huge turn off to the moderates of both parties.
The toxicity of Gingrich in a general election will, I suspect, make it impossible for him to win the nomination. But does that give Santorum an opening? Maybe it locks the party into Romney.
Or does it — here we go: A unifying governor who is an unflappable unifier could come along to help the party out. I offer two names: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. They are both popular in their own states, have good records of reform, can win among suburban voters and are policy wonks. Hmmm. I wonder if Bill Kristol has started the “Draft the Gov.” campaign yet.