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Ed Kilgore has a post at TNR today on why Republicans, contrary to elite conventional wisdom right now, won’t simply go for the most electable presidential candidate in 2012.
He’s right to question the degree to which Republican voters will go cast votes for the “electable” candidate over the candidate they prefer ideologically. An electable candidate is one who is perceived as most able to defeat Obama. Recently, that has been Romney. It’s dubious, Kilgore argues, that the “rightward lurch of the GOP since 2008” is anything but a reality, and so it will affect how voters act. Electability has its limits.
That’s clearly true. But it's not as if conservative voters are simply a pitchfork crowd ready looking for a RINO-hunt to join (with actual, real rifles mounted on their pick-up trucks). They are actually brighter than liberal critics usually surmise and use various factors in deciding how to vote.
He cites our survey with the Daily Caller as evidence that electability is a vague notion, and that there are plenty of others besides Romney whom conservatives think are electable.
But what he doesn’t do is report on the other findings we released with our survey: when you ask people who they really want to vote for, Romney’s numbers plummet from 30% on electability (far ahead of the others, as second place is a distant 15%) to 13% (fourth place) on voter preference.
- 30% - Mitt Romney
- 15% - Chris Christie
- 12% - Herman Cain
- 10% - Sarah Palin
- 8% - Michele Bachmann
- 8% - Tim Pawlenty
Who voters prefer as their first choice (this poll was taken before the last debate):
- 16% - Herman Cain
- 14% - Chris Christie
- 14% - Sarah Palin
- 13% - Mitt Romney
- 9% - Michele Bachmann
(As we note in our reports on the poll, we have left Christie in the mix as a way to gauge voter sentiment.)
These results suggest that a significant group of conservative voters who aren’t all that crazy about Romney plan to vote for him if no one else persuades them otherwise before next year.
So electability certainly seems to play more of a role than Kilgore allows.