The Washington Post

Desperate Romney not conservative enough for Florida

We’re all talking about Mitt Romney’s ill-advised $10,000 bet with Rick Perry. As I noted this morning, desperate men make desperate bets. And with Newt Gingrich beating Romney in polls of Republican primary voters in all the early contests but New Hampshire’s, the situation is pretty desperate. It could all come down to Florida and whether Romney can change his fortunes there in time for its Jan. 31 primary. But there are two nuggets within the NBC News/Marist poll that should be a five-alarmer for Camp Romney.

Gingrich leads Romney 44 percent to 29 percent in the Sunshine State. Here’s significant nugget number 1: “Gingrich’s backers — 60% — are more firmly behind their candidate compared with Romney’s supporters — 38%.” This will make it very difficult for the former Massachusetts governor to persuade enough primary voters to pull the lever for him to beat the former speaker of the House.

Why this is leads perfectly to significant nugget number 2: “Romney Ideology Mismatch for Florida Likely Voters.”

Looking at the perception of Romney’s ideology, a majority of likely Republican primary voters in Florida — 56% — describes Romney as a moderate, and 10% say he is a liberal. Only 23% think he is a conservative. 10% are unsure. Romney’s ideology is not compatible with that of the likely Republican electorate in Florida. Only 26% of these voters describe themselves as moderate and 4% view themselves as liberal. 70% identify as conservative.

So 70 percent of likely Florida Republican primary voters describe themselves as conservative and 66 percent of likely Florida Republican primary voters don’t think Romney is a conservative. This alone could spell doom for Romney.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.

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