Allahpundit touched on some of the new CBS numbers last night, focusing on the fact that too many Republicans still wish they had someone else to pick from in the primary. But another segment of the data seems to stick out like a sore thumb, and it goes to the general electability of the remaining candidates. In other words, before we go putting the cart before the horse, let’s not forget why we all came to this shindig in the first place.

In terms of The Big Question (i.e. who will win in November) there doesn’t seem to be any “conventional wisdom” because there are two competing camps. I would focus today on the one which seems to be most frequently heard around these parts. It generally includes a few common themes:

  • Every time we nominate a moderate we lose. (see McCain, John)
  • The country is actually far more conservative than you think and they want a clear contrast
  • If you don’t nominate a “true conservative” the base will stay home and we’ll lose again

OK… but if that’s the case, how do we explain this?

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney holds a two-point lead against President Obama in a potential general election matchup, according to a new CBS News poll.

The survey found that Romney is the only GOP candidate to hold a lead over the president in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup, though Texas Rep. Ron Paul trails by just one point.

Both Romney’s lead over Mr. Obama – 47 percent to 45 percent – and Mr. Obama’s lead over Paul – 46 percent to 45 percent – are within the survey’s three percentage point margin of error.

The poll found Mr. Obama with leads of at least four points over the other major Republican presidential candidates.

CBS News Survey 1/9/2012

There’s a number of disturbing items in these figures, but none of them support the line of thinking outlined above. Right up front we should notice that, yet again, CBS skews out the window with an RDI sample rate of 31/35/34, so everyone on the list might outperform these numbers by a bit. But that doesn’t alter the original premise, because in this type of a survey, if we adjust the results to have more Republicans and less Democrats, then – at least in theory – all of the Republicans will do better, including Mitt.

The other frequently cited and completely valid factor is that all the Republicans’ numbers are depressed a bit until the primary ends because “spoilers” will answer in the positive for their candidate, but claim they might vote for Obama if it’s one of the others. But once the dust settles, the disgruntled come home and lift up the eventual nominee a bit. Yet just as with the previous complaint, that helps any of them… including Romney.

And it’s not just the fact that Mitt comes in on top. The next best performer against Obama is… Ron Paul? And in terms of winning the hearts and minds of the independents, (who, I’m sorry to say, are still going to decide the election) Ron Paul and Mitt come in with not only the highest marks, but they beat the other four outside the margins. There’s got to be some explanation for this.

Then again, for your exit question, perhaps we should just toss the entire thing out? I mean… how in the heck does Ron Paul run competitively against Obama???