Home 2012 races Pundits Wrong?: Exit Polls Say Santorum Hurt Mitt, Not Newt. Capitalism Sunk...

Pundits Wrong?: Exit Polls Say Santorum Hurt Mitt, Not Newt. Capitalism Sunk Romney

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by Paul Goldman

Contrary to the TV pundits, the exit polls say the base of Rick Santorum’s support are voters who WOULD NOT have voted for Newt Gingrich. Moreover, the entire Gingrich margin of victory in South Carolina came from people who didn’t approve of how Bain Capital used the capitalist system to conduct their business. It looks like there is hush-hush Occupy Wall Street sentiment in the GOP which was in the proverbial political closet until Newt Gingrich dared open the door.

Governor Perry’s broadside against Romney as a “vulture capitalist” captured a key sentiment among a lot of voters based on the exit polls.   .

TO REPEAT: Among South Carolina voters who approved of how Bain and Romney operated and made the money, Romney and Gingrich were tied even after the alleged winning Gingrich debate performances and his surge.

Thus, all the talk about how his smackdown of CNN’s John King or the previous standing ovation on Monday in another slap down of Juan William’s of FOX news won him the election is the media making themselves more important than they are.

Substance, not optics, still rules.

FACT: The tax return stuff, the 15% tax rate, all this played into the story line about how Romney made his money, the Bain experience, and the like. It doesn’t seem logical given these numbers for Romney to attack Gingrich as a lefty on the economy who doesn’t understand the “creative destruction” element of capitalism. Florida’s unemployment rate is the same South Carolina. An angry electorate seems to play into Gingrich’s hands when Romney is seen, rightly or wrongly, as benefiting from what a key bloc of voters sees as unfair, selfish economic tactics.

The voters rejected Romney the capitalist, at least a key, deciding block did.

The exit polls also found about 1/5 of the South Carolina electorate apparently basing their choice on their perception of the candidate’s moral character. Needless to say, this was Newt Gingrich’s worst group! It made up roughly 50% of Santorum’s vote.

Without Santorum in the race, the “moral character” issue, which presumably has a big “family values” element, would be available to Romney.

Remember, a campaign is a narrative: if Romney could play the family values card, the story line might change.

THE TAKEAWAY FOR FLORIDA:

Romney’s worst group – self-identified very conservative Republicans – are going to be a bigger percentage of the Florida primary electorate even though the state is not as culturally Southern conservative as South Carolina. This is due to the closed nature of the primary, only registered Republicans allowed to vote.

It seems doubtful Romney can lose as badly among this group once again, and still win the Sunshine State.

Santorum figures to continue to win the “morality” vote, which means it will not be available to Romney unless it morphs into a stop-Gingrich thing.

IF 25% of the voters are again as negative on Romney/Bain/creative destruction, Romney is clearly the underdog who needs to change the narrative.

Voters concede Romney knows how capitalism works. That was his problem in South Carolina. He has got to change that for Florida.