With Newt Gingrich’s group holding its Solutions Day, specualtion is rife over wether he will jump into the presidential sweepstakes, soï¿½it’s worth taking a quick look at how his entrance might affect the race. Ultimately, I don’t think he can win the nomination given that it’s unlikely he could overcome his huge negatives to be seen as electable nationally, and Fred Thompson’s entrance into the race has already filled much ofï¿½the demand for another conservative alternative. But that doesn’t mean that his entrance will not impact the race.
In March, I wrote about how a Gingrich candidacy could prod the other Republican candidates into having a more serious dialogue about the nation’s challenges. Given his historic role in the modern conservative movement, all of the other candidates are likely to be somewhat deferential to Gingrich, hoping for an endorsement.
How would his entance into the race impact the polls? The simple answer is thatï¿½I believeï¿½a Gingrich candidacyï¿½wouldï¿½mainly eat into the numbers ofï¿½Giuliani and Thompson, but the reality is a lot more complicated.ï¿½The Washington Post/ABC poll is somewhat useful because it has been asking for GOP voter preferences with Gingrich in and out of the race.
Let’s start with Thompson, becauseï¿½clearly there’s a lot of overlap betweenï¿½Gingrich/Thompson votersï¿½being that both candidates are considered conservative alternatives. In February, just before Thompson began being included in these polls, Gingrich was polling at 15 percent, but in the next poll taken in April, he dropped to 6 percent. In that same April poll, Thompson debuted at a number exactly equal to that differential–9 percent.
While it goes against conventional wisdom to believe there is much overlap between Gingrich and Giuliani voters given that Gingrich is seen as the choice of conservatives and Giuliani is seen as the choice of moderates, in reality, they do draw at least some of their support from a similar pool of voters. My thesis on this is that there are a certain number of conservative voters who see the struggle against Islamic terrorismï¿½as the defining issue of our time. They are drawn to Giuliani because of his leadership on 9/11 and for being outspoken on the nature of the threat, and also to Gingrich, who hasï¿½framed the conflictï¿½as World War III. Given a choice between two candidates who they see as “getting it” on the terrorism issue, some conservative voters would prefer Gingrich, because of social issues. In the February poll, Giuliani’s numbers were 9 points higher when Gingrich was not included in the question.
In the September poll, Gingrich was at just 5 percent, tied with Mike Huckabee. With him in the race, Giuliani loses two points, Thompson loses one point, Romney loses one point, and the rest gets spread around. However, if Gingrich’s numbers rise upon announcing, he may shake up the race more than this.
Here are some of the remaining questionsï¿½to consider: Would Gingrich receive a traditional boost in polls should he decide to run?ï¿½If so, how big? Could heï¿½help Rudy byï¿½further dividing up the conservative vote? Or will he take away national security voters from Rudy?ï¿½Would he end up taking some air outï¿½of Thompson’s rise? Willï¿½he present another road block for Romney?
Either way, Newt would add another wrinkle to the most dynamic GOP nomination battle in decades.
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