Republican presidential candidates Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, left, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, second from right, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, right, watch as former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during a Republican presidential debate Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Among independent voters, who are widely seen as the critical swing voting bloc in the fall election, none of the four candidates is regarded favorably by even 40 percent of the sample.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul does best with a 38 percent favorable rating and a 35 percent unfavorable rating. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the frontrunner in the race, clocks in at a dismal 32 percent favorable score, 16 points lower than the 48 percent of independents who see him in an unfavorable light. Ditto former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum who is viewed favorably by just just three in 10 independents. That looks positively outstanding when compared to the 21 percent — yes, 21 percent — of independents who view former House Speaker Newt Gingrich favorably.

(Want to take a guess at Gingrich’s favorability among Democrats? It’s 11 percent with 73 percent viewing him unfavorably. Yowza.)

The wear and tear of the protracted and nasty primary fight is even evident among Republican voters. Only Romney is regarded favorably by six in 10 self-identified GOPers. As interesting, about three in 10 Republicans view Romney unfavorably — indicative of the lingering discontent with him among some within the party.

Fifty-eight percent of GOPers regard Santorum favorably against 23 percent who have an unfavorable opinion. The numbers are far darker for both Gingrich and Santorum. Gingrich breaks just about even — 42 percent favorable/44 percent unfavorable — while Paul is viewed even more unfavorably (44 percent unfavorable compared to 38 percent favorable).

These numbers — like all poll numbers — are a snapshot in time. But, they reflect the fact that the recent debates within the Republican presidential primary (contraception, anyone?) are hurting — not helping — the GOP’s chances of regaining the White House in the fall.

It’s why there seems to be a growing desire from major pillars of the Republican establishment — see House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s endorsement of Romney over the weekend — to bring this primary fight to a close and begin the process of courting independents before they slip out of the nominee’s grasp.

The Post/ABC poll suggests that move to the ideological middle can’t happen soon enough for Republicans.

Obama campaign keeps heat on Romney: As it has throughout the GOP presidential race, President Obama’s campaign is keeping the heat on Romney.

In the runup to Super Tuesday, Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter on Monday evening released a memo detailing aspects of Romney’s record as governor and comparing them to the less-appealing aspects of Romney’s job at Bain Capital.

“At Bain Capital, Romney made millions by closing plants, laying off workers and shipping their jobs overseas. As Governor, Romney’s Massachusetts was 47th out of 50 in job creation,” Cutter writes. “At Bain Capital, Romney ran companies into debt and bankruptcy. As Governor, Romney ran up debt in Massachusetts, even as he raised taxes and fees on middle-class families and businesses.”

The memo goes on to detail aspects of Romney’s current campaign and contrasts them to his record as governor.

Angus King makes it official: Former Maine governor Angus King (I) announced late Monday that he will run for the state’s open Senate seat.

King, a popular former governor, is likely to be the early favorite to succeed retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).

In announcing his campaign, he asserted that he will remain an independent, arguing that he’s not beholden to either major party. He is a former Democrat and there had been some thought he may run under the Democratic banner.


Karen Santorum says her family brought home their dead baby as a part of the grieving process.

Romney is met with excitement in Idaho.

Barbara Bush says the current presidential campaign is the “worst campaign I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Joe Biden hires a former lobbyist.

Former Obama bodyguard Reggie Love cuts an ad for Obama targeting African-American voters.

Bill Clinton will raise money for Obama.

Gingrich asks for a judge to dismiss a copyright infringement lawsuit against him for his use of the song “Eye of the Tiger.”

Herman Cain stumps for Gingrich in Oklahoma.

Danny Tarkanian, who ran in Nevada’s Republican Senate primary in 2010, files for the state’s new Democratic-leaning 4th district.


Republicans aim to turn 2010 gains into safe seats after redistricting” — Aaron Blake, Washington Post

Some Republicans root for endgame to primary campaign” — Michael O’Brien, MSNBC

Santorum Slumps in Super Tuesday Polls” — Nate Silver, New York Times

Where will Ron Paul’s supporters go for the general election?” — Sandhya Somashekhar, Washington Post

Santorum Sticks to a Bare-Bones Style” — Katharine Q. Seelye, New York Times

Read more from PostPolitics

Ann Romney on wealth: What did she really mean?

The Fix’s video guide to Super Tuesday

Where will Ron Paul’s supporters go for the general election?

Candidates make final push ahead of Super Tuesday