The coverage of the GOP presidential race is beginning to remind me of the Woody Allen joke: “Everything our parents said was good is bad. Sun, milk, red meat ... college.” In this case, most of the conventional wisdom is junk.
Take the latest Gallup poll, which reports: “At the national level, Romney is in a strong front-runner position across several measures. He has broken the 30% barrier in terms of national support for the GOP nomination and leads his nearest competitor by 12 percentage points. About 6 in 10 Republicans say they expect he will be their nominee regardless of whom they personally support, and Romney is the only candidate that a majority of conservative and moderate/liberal Republicans see as an acceptable nominee.”
This probably comes as a shock to voters and pundits. It has become an article of faith among conventional-wisdom providers that opposition to Romney is growing or that his negatives are rising with primary voters. Even though Iowa turnout was a record, the scribblers tell us it was “disappointing.” All of that a-factual blather is what his opponents would like to believe. It is what the headlines suggest (“Romney under fire!) when they report attacks by candidates like Newt Gingrich, who themselves are not acceptable to the majority of GOP voters. But it simply isn’t so that Romney’s support is diminishing. The opposite is true, as we know from the vote returns in Iowa, the polls in New Hampshire and the national surveys.
Romney shouldn’t rest on his laurels. Voter opinion can shift, as it has multiple times in this race. He needs to continue to demonstrate that he is the best nominee to defeat President Obama. And — this is key — Rick Santorum and others shouldn’t assume Romney’s support will erode over time. It’s not happening, despite what the pundits say. To beat Romney, his challengers will need to make an affirmative case that they are not merely acceptable but a better choice than Romney. That means defining their own agenda and showing why they are more attractive to critical swing voters.