The GOP race looks to be all but decided. After Mitt Romney’s decisive victory in Florida, short of a dark-horse candidate getting in the race the excitement has died in the GOP primary. With Mitt Romney all but officially crowned to be the GOP nominee we must turn to the general election. How does Romney match-up against Obama?
If current polls are any indication than Romney matches up very well. In a recent USAT/Gallup survey of 12 swing states (NV, NM, NH, IA, WI, FL, MI, VA, OH, NC, PA and CO) Romney narrowly leads Obama 48%-47%. This is well within the margin of error. Among the national electorate Romney and Obama are tied at 48%. What has to alarm Democrats and make the GOP optimistic is these numbers are virtually unchanged from a few months ago. In an October survey Romney narrowly led 47%-46% over the president.
Recent events are also important to consider. The economy has shown signs of a recovery, an incredibly sluggish one but one nonetheless. Meanwhile Romney has been being hammered in the GOP primary and revelations about his tax returns, personal wealth and tenure as MA Governor have not helped. Yet for all this Romney has managed to remain competitive with the president.
Republicans look to have chosen the right nominee to take on the president. In the same poll Gingrich loses to the president 54%-40% among swing state voters and 53%-41% nationally. Both Santorum and Paul also lose to the president, though by smaller margins than Gingrich. In Rasmussen’s daily presidential tracking poll Romney does the best among GOP hopefuls, losing to the president 47%-41%.
Romney’s campaign also has the infrastructure already in place to wage a general election campaign. In Florida Romney’s campaign simply overwhelmed Gingrich, Santorum and Paul. Romney already as offices in the February caucus states of ME, NV, CO and MN, and the primary states of AZ and MI. Most of these states have the chance to be critical to his chances in the general.
In the next two weeks alone Romney’s campaign plans to open a dozen new offices in several states that are voting on Super Tuesday. Already in the big voting states Romney’s campaign is buying TV and radio time. These factors all point to Romney being able to compete with the president on the campaign front.
Moreover, Romney, along with friendly Super PACs and 3rd Party groups has the chance to compete with the president in the money chase.
Consider the financial numbers. Obama’s campaign ended the year with $81.8 million on hand. A great haul, but far less than the predicted $1 billion campaign. The hoped for Super PACs and 3rd Party Groups Democrats wanted to materialize on their side have not. Together Democratic PACs raised a paltry $3.97 million combined (dedicated solely to Congressional activities) and the DNC only had $12.6 million. Combined this leaves Obama and outside groups with just over $98 million.
Romney’s campaign ended the year with $19.9 million. But outside groups push Romney’s total to almost even with the president. Romney’s Super PAC, Restore our Future, had $23.6 million on hand. American Crossroads, which along with money will train campaign staffers and organizers, had $15.6 million. The RNC even outraised the DNC with $20 million on hand. Lastly, Crossroads GPS, which is not required to file with the FEC, has been hinting it has around $15 to $20 million. These totals give pro-Romney groups and his campaign almost $95 million.
Take out the two Democratic PACs dedicated solely to Congressional activities and it is a virtual tie. And keep in mind donating to the GOP presidential race is still split to the primary. Once it ends, GOP donors will likely give larger sums directly to the Romney campaign.
Then there is Romney’s background to consider. He has been a businessman for most of his life. Yet in-between that time he has run for political office three times (94, 2002, and 2008) and was chief executive of MA for one term. Executive as well as business experience still has the potential to benefit Romney. This as the right has attacked him for his tenure as Governor of MA and the left for his “venture capitalistic” actions when he was head of Bain.
The president is incredibly weak and Romney had the ability to exploit it in swing states such as Florida. For more evidence look at a January 26th Quinnipiac survey of Florida. In the survey Romney and the president are tied at 45%. Yet only 46% of registered Florida voters approve of the president’s job performance while 52% disapprove. Even worse, 49% say the president does not deserve to be re-elected while 47% do. Among independents Romney has a narrow 42%-41% lead but his lead over the president on the issue of the economy, 50%-41%, showcase his strengths. Voters may not like everything he has done but he has experience and they recognize it.
Gallup also has approval/disapproval numbers of how the president fared in major swing states for the year 2011. In traditional midwestern swing states such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa the president fared well. In VA he was at 45/49 approval, North Carolina 44/49. Florida 44/48 and Georgia 45/48. But in other swing states the president struggled. In CO the president was at 40/52, Ohio, 42/50, PA 45/48. Even in heavily Hispanic NV and NM the president struggled with a 41/50 rating in Nevada and a 42/51 underwater rating in NM. All this points to how precarious the president’s position is heading into the election year.
The election may well come down to a few hundred thousand votes in a few key states. Romney is the only GOP candidate with the resources and experience to take on the president. GOP voters seem to recognize this and it indicates that conservatives will come out and support Romney in the general. If this occurs Romney could well be the next president of the US.