Primary polls point to Romney

Notes on the GOP primary polls …

Rick Perry has clearly lost significant ground, no matter what media surveys you look at. My reading is that the early strong polling for Perry simply reflected a vote of confidence in his being the governor of one of the reddest red states, Texas. That’s all people knew about him at first. Then the debates allowed Republicans to “sample” the product, to use a marketing term, and many voters were profoundly disappointed. It’s hardly worth going over the reasons he was found wanting; it suffices to say that he is not whatever they expected. Marketers will tell you it’s almost impossible to put the genie back into the bottle, especially if he’s wearing boots and has big hair. Perry promoters can huff and puff with their negative attacks on Romney, but that won’t fix Perry’s bumbled blastoff. The money spent attacking Romney would have been better spent “relaunching” the Texan, NASA-style, but that probably wouldn’t have worked either. Marketers will tell you that the initial rollout of a product is definitional. Perry’s was a dud. He’s just hanging around and wasting everyone’s money and time now.

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The Herman Cain bump is fascinating. It appears that the disaffected Perry backers simply lurched to the next flavor of the month as picked by the “anyone but Romney,” hair-shirt conservatives who want to give President Obama a fighting chance in his near-impossible bid for reelection. Cain is obviously a fighter and a shrewd political calculator, but he has no gas in the tank, so he’ll just take a few laps around the track before the money gauge reads empty and the wreckers pull his car into the pit area. Then the itchy hair-shirts might resurrect Michelle Bachmann or even a cellar-dweller like Rick Santorum to try and stymie Romney. Santorum, just like Cain, might eventually get his 15 minutes of fame if he just hangs around awhile. More likely, though, is that he’ll get aced out by Gary Johnson or some even longer shot, because being the biggest loser signals to the self-flagellators that you are pure in ideology. Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich waits patiently and anxiously in the outfield bullpen like a 48-year-old Dominican reliever on his third comeback attempt waiting for the manager to give him the damn ball so he can prove he’s still got something in the tank. Oh, how I love this game.

A couple of the polls might have been more influential in Chris Christie’s non-start than has been given credit. The last media poll to mention his name naturally in the candidate list, one for ABC/The Washington Post that finished Oct. 2, had him at only 10 percent and in fourth place, hardly a clamoring for someone who would have needed a fast start. The only polls that showed him doing well were those that called special attention to his late entry by explicitly reading his name separately as an alternative to the present field. Christie’s pass on the race might also have reflected a careful reading of the polls that suggests ordinary people, as distinguished from donors, are generally satisfied with the current field, or at least they have no particular alternative in mind. A CBS poll that finished Oct. 2 explicitly asked voters whether they would “like to see someone else nominated” after reading the list of current candidates, minus Christie. Only 10 percent, the same as Christie received in the other poll, said yes. Clearly, 9 of 10 Republicans think we have someone worth nominating already in the race.

There will be ups and downs for Romney, but he’s got this contest where he needs it to be. There is no one remaining who can best him one on one.

David Hill is a pollster who has worked for Republican candidates and causes since 1984.