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Republicans’ authenticity problem

at 06:00 AM ET, 12/20/2011

A bare majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents see former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as willing to say what they actually believe, according to a new Washington Post-ABC-News poll.

Call it the authenticity gap.


Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney shakes hands with former House speaker Newt Gingrich after a Republican presidential debate in Sioux City, Iowa, on Thursday. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Just 52 percent of Republicans in the survey say they can rely on Gingrich either a “great deal”(21 percent) or a “good amount” (31 percent) to “say what he really believes.” The numbers are even less encouraging for Romney, with just 16 percent saying they feel they can rely on him “a great deal” to voice his actual opinions and 35 percent saying they trust him a “good amount” to speak his mind.

Those numbers compare unfavorably to Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who is the only candidate aside from Romney and Gingrich who clocks double digits in the national ballot test. Fully two-thirds of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they have either a “great deal” or a “good amount” of faith that they can rely on Paul to say what he believes.

The trust issue comes up repeatedly in the data. While six in 10 say they would vote for either Gingrich or Romney, just 35 percent say that either Romney (22 percent) or Gingrich (13 percent) is the “most honest and trustworthy candidate” in the field.

The data provides one — though not the only — explanation for why the frontrunners, particularly Romney, have been unable to close the deal with voters as of yet.

Large numbers of Republicans continue to view Romney and Gingrich as, at root, politicians — telling voters what they want to hear as opposed to what they genuinely believe. In a year in which the American public — but, specifically, the Republican electorate — seems ready shake things up, being just another politician just isn’t good enough.

The authenticity gap might also explain — at least in part — Paul’s continued support both nationally and in Iowa, the first stop in the presidential nominating process.

Paul’s views, particularly on foreign policy, are not popular (45 percent in the Post-ABC poll cite it as a “major” reason to oppose his candidacy), but voters believe those positions are both heartfelt and non-political.

As we have written before, the vote for a presidential nominee tends to be one of the least ideological votes there is. Because the candidates are typically very closely aligned on most issues of the day, voters tend to side with the candidate they feel like they can trust most to represent their interests in office.

The Post-ABC poll suggests that neither Romney nor Gingrich has made a strong enough case on the authenticity front just yet. And making that sale may well hold the the key to winning Iowa — and everywhere else.

Romney’s ceiling rising?: Much attention was focused Monday on a new Gallup poll that showed Gingrich falling into a statistical tie with Romney. The tracking poll showed a consistent decline for Gingrich over the last two weeks, during which Gingrich’s 37 percent to 22 percent lead on Romney became a 26 percent to 24 percent lead.

And a new Washington Post/ABC News poll confirms the two men are tied.

But there is a key difference in the polls. While the Gallup poll showed Romney essentially staying put as Gingrich fell to Earth — his ceiling has long been around 25 percent nationally — the Post/ABC poll shows Romney rising to 30 percent, which is one of the highest numbers he has polled this entire election.

Similarly, a new CNN poll showed Gingrich and Romney tied at 28 percent, beyond that 25 percent ceiling for the former Massachusetts governor.

Rarely has Romney polled two numbers that high so close together, and that’s a good sign for Romney, who has struggled to pick up the pieces when other candidates have faltered.

Romney criticizes Gingrich on judges: Romney said in an interview with Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly on Monday night that Gingrich’s plan to abolish the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is wrong-headed and illegal.

“The solution to judges out of control is not to tear up the Constitution and say that the Congress of the United States becomes the now ultimate power in this country,” Romney said. “The wonderful thing we can do about it is to follow the Constitution. In the Constitution, there is a method for removing a justice. There’s also a method for reversing their decisions.”

As the New York Times notes, legal scholars generally agree with Romney that the idea isn’t practical.

DCCC outraises NRCC: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee outraised its GOP counterpart in November, pulling in $4.1 million to the National Republican Congressional Committee’s $3.1 million, which was reported by Roll Call last night..

The DCCC was close to wiping out the $19 million in debt it accumulated in the 2010 election and had $10.2 million cash on hand, compared to $14.5 million in cash for the NRCC, which entered the cycle with less debt and was debt-free by the end of November.

Fixbits:

A Clemson University poll conducted over the last two weeks shows Gingrich leading South Carolina by 17 points.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) explains her Romney endorsement in an op-ed.

Gingrich says his personal cut from the $1.6 million Freddie Mac paid his consulting firm was about $35,000 per year, and suggests his opponents update their attack ads to reflect that. We’re not holding our breath.

New Jersey’s bipartisan redistricting commission could issue a proposed map as soon as Wednesday, and Gov. Chris Christie (R) is hoping the GOP gets a fair shake.

Rick Perry tries to position himself as the biggest critic of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailout.

Must-reads:

Palin? Jeb Bush? Ghosts of candidates past reemerge as votes near” — Michael A. Memoli, Los Angeles Times

Gingrich counterattacks against foes’ onslaught” — Amy Gardner, Washington Post

 
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