New Gallup polling shows just two GOP presidential candidates are rated as acceptable nominees to face President Obama by a majority of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, while the rest of the crop are all rated as unacceptable.
But perhaps the most interesting nugget of data is just how unacceptable even the most acceptable Republicans are.
According to the poll, 62 percent of respondents rated former House speaker Newt Gingrich as an acceptable GOP nominee, while 54 percent rated former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney as acceptable.
When the same question was asked of GOP voters in July 2007, Romney was rated as acceptable by a nearly identical 53 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents; ex-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani was acceptable to 74 percent, former senator Fred Thompson (Tenn.) was acceptable to 59 percent; and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was acceptable to 57 percent.
Besides the enthusiasm around Giuliani, those numbers aren’t THAT different from what we’re seeing today. But it’s important to note a few things:
1) The 2008 field, like the 2012 one, was supposed by some to be rather uninspiring. Indeed, Thompson’s late entry into the race was largely in response to the lack of demonstrated enthusiasm for the existing candidates.
2) Yes, eventual 2008 nominee McCain’s number is on par with the current acceptable numbers for Gingrich and Romney, but the poll was conducted at a time when McCain’s campaign was on the decline, with him polling in the mid-teens in national polls and right before a big-time staff shake-up.
3) Romney is essentially no more palatable to Republicans today than he was relatively early in the 2008 campaign. In the July 2007 poll, 53 percent of respondents saw Romney as acceptable and 37 percent saw him as unacceptable. In December 2011, one month before the 2012 Iowa caucuses, 54 percent see Romney as acceptable, and 41 percent see him as unacceptable.
The numbers contrast pretty unfavorably with the three Democratic frontrunners in 2008 — Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. Each of them were rated as acceptable by about eight in ten Democrats and Democratic leaners, a reflection of the enthusiasm for each of their candidacies.
Previous polls this cycle have shown Romney making some inroads with more conservative voters, but Tuesday’s Gallup poll suggests that the universe of GOP voters that says he’s not good enough to be their nominee has essentially stayed the same over the last four years. That’s not great news for one of the GOP’s leading candidates.
None of this is to say that Republicans don’t have a chance to take back the White House in 2012.
What it does say is that the candidates they have aren’t as inspiring to Republican voters as they could be, which is always a factor in who wins on Election Day.