The split for Newt is 62/34, the split for Mitt 54/41. Next best is Perry at … 41/52. As usual, though, the tea-party numbers are the most interesting part:
Romney’s the only candidate above 50 percent with both ideological wings of the party, but Gingrich is right on the brink — and his advantage among conservatives and especially tea partiers is huge. (It’s no outlier, I think: PPP reports today that Gingrich leads Romney among Iowa tea partiers 35/4(!).) Among those same tea partiers Perry is all the way back at fifth place in acceptability, behind Cain. And Ron Paul, who’s always been treated by the media as a godfather of the tea-party movement, is buried at 27 percent, 12 points worse than he does with non-tea-partiers. Thus does a horrible possibility begin to dawn on the press: Could the most radically extreme extremist wingnuts of all actually be pretty darned pragmatic in choosing their nominee? Politico wonders:
“I’m a tea party person and I know the two tea party people are probably Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum,” said Kathy Behlert, after a Gingrich event in Greenville on Wednesday. “I want to see Newt Gingrich up against Obama because I think with his background and his experience being the speaker he knows an awful lot about what’s going on in this country.”
In Iowa, Jim Carley, an Altoona tea party leader and state legislative candidate, doesn’t see Gingrich as the type of insider who causes problems. He’s still weighing his options, but has narrowed his choices down to Gingrich and Santorum.
“He’s been a Washington man and he knows where the bodies are. He knows how to get through the minefield,” Carley said. “Basically, he is an outsider. His inside-ness was years ago.”…
Republican revulsion toward Obama, whom conservatives view as a naive greenhorn whose lack of experience is reflected in his performance, is bolstering Gingrich’s case: Voters say they are looking for someone who already knows their way around Washington.
“Unfortunately, a lot of the fresh blood that we see is what got us in trouble with Obama,” said Joe Mullins, of Greenville, minutes after picking up his Gingrich yard sign outside a town hall meeting. “Pretty faces sometimes are just pretty faces and they don’t have a message behind the face, behind the image.”
If Newt wins on the strength of TP turnout, it’ll be one of Obama’s most impressive legacies. He’ll have achieved something no establishment Republican has been able to accomplish: By showing them just how badly a novice can govern, he’ll have taught grassroots conservatives how to appreciate Beltway insiders. Kudos, champ.
I searched Gallup’s archive to see if they’ve done any other “acceptability” polls and the only hit I got was this one from 2006, reporting that four out of 10 Republicans found, er, John McCain “unacceptable” as a potential nominee. Which is to say, don’t read too much into these numbers: Not only do they likely reflect whoever’s hot in the polls at the moment (Perry and Cain’s acceptability splits were doubtless much better two months ago), but partisans have a funny way of convincing themselves that a candidate is acceptable once he starts to look inevitable. If you are going to read into them, though, don’t forget to note this data set:
This is at least the third poll to show Gingrich doing impressively well with seniors, which always leaves me conflicted about him becoming the nominee. On the one hand, it’d be sweet to have a guy at the top of the ticket capable of dominating a high-turnout demographic. On the other hand, the more Gingrich and the GOP owe their victories to seniors, the more difficult entitlement reform would seem to become. How aggressive will President Newt be, really, in overhauling Medicare if his reelection depends heavily on its beneficiaries? Or does the fact that he’ll have a cushion among seniors mean he can actually be more aggressive on entitlement reform, since he can afford to lose a few more of their votes than the average candidate could?
While you mull that, here’s some flashback video from 2007 via Andrew Kaczynski of the tea party’s new champion.