Saturday, June 23, 2007

Romney in Montana; Romney in the West; Some notes on the Newsweek head-to-head polls

Well, reports today are that Mitt Romney wowed 'em at the Montana GOP convention. Since he was the only GOP candidate to visit, he deserved gratitude for coming to rally the faithful, a warm welcome to the state, and lots of applause.

If Romney makes any wider use of the visit, it will be to demonstrate his popularity and support in the West -- the section of the country that the Dems are counting on to make the difference in the next Presidential campaign. The new strategy being promoted by many in the Democratic party is built on two ideas:

1. They assume that they will be able to win all of the states that John Kerry won. Probably a safe assumption.

2. They believe that it is best just to write off the Republican heartland of the "greater South" -- which extends from Texas and Oklahoma all the way to east coast, and which includes the northern tier of Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia, etc..

3. They believe that even if the election gets close (and current signs are that it won't be) they can pick off enough "red" states outside the South to make the difference -- particularly in the intermountain west. This idea is built in no small part on recent Democratic wins in the West such as Sen. Jon Tester's victory in Montana in 2006.

This strategy flies in the face of the traditional DLC approach of running a southerner who can win some states in the borderlands of the South, while writing off the traditionally Republican swath of states reaching from Montana and North Dakota down through Arizona, NM, and Texas.

If Romney is truly a GOP powerhouse throughout the intermountain west -- and his supporters truly think he would be -- it would spoil a part of that Democratic strategy.

Leaving aside the issue of whether Romney could retain the GOP's current hold on the south (for instance, would he really be able to win Arkansas or Florida or West Virginia against Clinton or Edwards?) -- it does not seem at all a given that Romney would sweep the West. But it is too early to be getting state by state comparison polls, and that is still unknown.

Looking at the latest national poll (the Newsweek poll,) Romney loses more heavily to any Democratic contender than does any Republican contender. While nearly every head-to-head matchup has all Republicans solidly behind Democrats in that particular poll (which historically has been conducted in a way that underestimates GOP strength, it must be admitted,) and has Romney as the GOP candidate most significantly behind the Democratic candidates, it is interesting that the biggest "red-state" gap of all is the one between John Edwards and Romney. This would seem to point toward significant Romney weakness in the South, since Edwards is from North Carolina.

Another interesting tidbit from the Newsweek poll was that the only Democratic candidate who ran behind in the "red state" polling is Hillary Clinton. She is shown narrowly behind both Guiliani and McCain in the aggregate of those states. This points toward her weaknesss -- very high negatives in the heartland.

A Clinton general election campaign currently seems to be built on the idea that she could win every state that Kerry did -- plus win in Ohio.

A lot of this early horse-race stuff is just name recognition to be sure, especially when the poll is of registered voters rather than likely voters . But it's still enjoyable to watch horses race, even if they're barely out of the starting gate.

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