Reading right-wing commentary or listening to talk radio would give you the impression there is great aversion, even loathing, of Mitt Romney among Republicans. The reality is very different, suggesting that the chorus of “anybody but Mitt” for their presidential candidate is more a function of the media than of actual voter sentiment.
Take for example the latest Gallup poll. According to that survey, Romney has the highest total favorable rating (67 percent) and the lowest unfavorable rating (24 percent) of any candidate. That is consistent with other polling showing the former Massachusetts governor leads as the second choice of Republican voters. In other words there is no polling evidence to suggest that GOP voters would find it difficult to back him if he’s the last man standing in the primary.
Some conservatives are already preparing for that eventuality. Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter created a stir last night on Fox News:
Coulter, no squishy moderate, is essentially making the practical argument. “Ronald Reagan isn’t available this time,” she observes. No kidding.
This sentiment is fairly common among rank-and-file Republicans who have watched in semi-horror as one candidate after another has bombed in the debates or shown himself to be unprepared for the rigors of the presidential run. These people rooted for other candidates to get into the race, but now have come to realize there will not be any knight in shining armor (or New Jersey governor or Wisconsin congressman) to sweep them off their feet. The rollout of Romney’s entitlement and spending reform plan went a long way in wooing conservatives, even some in the right punditocracy who bemoaned his lack of boldness
Romney is going to have to weather the caucuses in Iowa, where he is unlikely to win (Gov. Terry Branstad chided him strongly about not playing in the state) but may finish strongly as the other candidates serially collapse. He’ll need to withstand the burst of negative ads that will come as Herman Cain and Texas Gov. Rick Perry shoot their final wads. And he’ll need to win over more of the base to do well in South Carolina. He may be a non-starter or ultimately unacceptable to a significant number of conservative pundits and hard-core Tea Partyers, but there is little reason to doubt that he could pull the party together if he does take the nomination. And putting Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on the ticket wouldn’t hurt either.