Newt Gingrich’s general election prospects look bleak

at 06:30 AM ET, 12/15/2011

If former House Speaker Newt Gingrich manages to win the Republican presidential nomination, he could jeopardize his party’s chances of ousting President Obama next November, according to several new national polls released this week.

Surveys from the NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, AP/GfK and Reuters/Ipsos all show former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney running better than Gingrich in general election matchups against Obama.


GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. (Sarah Kaufman and Jayne Orenstein/The Washington Post)

“Electability will come into play for many Republican votes,” said one neutral GOP consultant who preferred to speak anonymously. “It’s going to become problematic. I think you’re starting to signs of it.”

The NBC/WSJ and AP/GfK polls show Gingrich trailing Obama by 11 percent and 9 percent in the general election, respectively, while Romney trails the president by just 2 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll shows a smaller but still notable difference, with Romney trailing by 8 percent and Gingrich by 13 percent.

But wait, there’s more.

Polling from the Washington Post and ABC News shows Gingrich’s personal favorable numbers are not good among potential general election voters. More problematic is that Gingrich’s approval numbers have actually gotten worse, even as he has risen rapidly in the GOP primary.

In the WaPo/ABC poll, Gingrich has a 35 percent overall favorable rating and a 48 percent unfavorable rating. (The Post’s crack polling team notes that his unfavorable rating has risen by 6 percent in the last two weeks.)

The problem appears to be Gingrich’s appeal — or lack thereof — among independents. But he’s also got problems among Republicans.

Among independents, his numbers are 33 percent positive and 48 percent negative, and among moderates, they are even worse — 30 percent and 52 percent. Even 28 percent of Republicans and 33 percent of conservatives rate Gingrich unfavorably.

Another neutral GOP strategist says that’s enough to call into question his electability.

“Not that many prominent Republicans cross that line of rejection,” said the GOP strategist. “Sarah Palin does. Newt Gingrich comes awfully close.”

All of the data above paints the picture of a man who, even as he may win the Republican nomination, would have plenty of work to do in recovering his good name among independent voters in the general election. It also serves as validation and perhaps motivation for a Republican political establishment that has been (privately) worried about him potentially winning the nomination and struggling against Obama thanks to his baggage.

Case in point is House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who on Wednesday declined to say whether Gingrich would be a good president and suggested Gingrich isn’t as conservative as some think.

What’s perhaps most striking about the numbers is that, in recent weeks, Gingrich has returned to where he started in the race but has been unable to raise his overall favorable rating to coincide with his rise in the polls.

Being popular with the base might be enough to win the nomination for Gingrich — especially since some conservatives just don’t seem to like or trust Romney. But if there’s anything Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle taught us in 2010 Senate races, it’s that the general election is an entirely different animal.

Things could change, of course, and Gingrich has often showed himself to be very skilled at transforming his image. But for now, Gingrich’s popularity is a Republican-only phenomenon. And close to half the country is already negatively predisposed towards him, which isn’t a great place to start a general election campaign.

Of course, general election worries are for another time. And, it’s probably a problem Gingrich wouldn’t mind having to solve, since it would mean he was the GOP nominee.

Romney targets Newt on Tiffany’s: In an interview with Sean Hannity on Wednesday, Romney went after Gingrich’s half-million-dollar line of credit at Tiffany’s.

“As for him trying to reference a $10,000 rhetorical bet — the speaker, as I recall, probably shouldn’t be talking about that given a $500,000 bill at Tiffany’s,” Romney said.

Romney, of course, was referring to his ill-fated rhetorical bet from Saturday’s debate. Long before that, it was revealed that Gingrich had a big line of credit at Tiffany’s.

Romney had also tried to cast Gingrich as a wealthy man early in the day, which to our ears suggests his campaign is worried about the fallout from the $10,000 bet moment.

If we’re getting into a who’s-richer contest, of course, Romney will win (lose?) that one every time.

RNC looks to build mobile army: The Republican National Committee is going up with ads in battleground states that seek to build a “mobile army.”

The ads, running on Fox affiliates during tomorrow night’s debate, feature RNC Chairman Reince Priebus asking people to join the RNC effort by texting “GOP” to 91919.

Obama’s campaign has for years used text messages as a means to reach supporters.

Ohio map on its way: It looks like Ohio Republicans will be able to pass their new congressional map with enough votes to avoid a referendum.

State House Republican and Democratic leaders were reportedly close to a deal Wednesday in which the state would set a single primary date and pass the redistricting map with enough Democratic votes to give it the two-thirds majority required to avoid a referendum.

Republicans released a map on which they would solidify their current stranglehold on the congressional delegation, but Democrats threatened to put the map on the ballot as a referendum. The map that is set to pass is the same except for some minor changes.

The deal would set the state’s primary for March 6.

Fixbits:

Romney calls Gingrich “zany.”

The Washington Examiner endorses Romney.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) campaign is being probed.

Members of Congress from New York have already spent $100,000 on lobbyists for the state’s upcoming redistricting debate.

Herman Cain told Barbara Walters in an interview aired Wednesday that, if he were to be a cabinet secretary, he would be secretary of defense.

Michigan Senate candidate Clark Durant (R) has parted ways with campaign manager Dick Wadhams and brought on former congressional aide Andy Anuzis as a replacement. Wadhams formerly worked for Sen. John Thune (S.D.), former senator George Allen (Va.) and the Colorado Republican Party.

Right To Life won’t back Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D-Neb.) reelection.

Must-reads:

“The C-SPAN Campaign: How Online Video Archives Are Changing the Game in 2012” — Adam Sorenson, Time

Ron Paul, the unlikeliest 2012 force” — Chris Cillizza, Washington Post

Republicans turn Keystone XL pipeline into election issue” — Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson, Washington Post

Gingrich’s Foreign Policy Words Summon the Cold War, but Enemy Is Iran” — Trip Gabriel, New York Times

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