Two bombshell polls out yesterday showed Newt Gingrich with a substantial lead against Mitt Romney among Florida GOP voters. Jonathan wrote about the Florida Times-Union survey, which found Gingrich leading the field with a 24-point advantage over Romney. Another Public Policy Polling poll reported roughly the same numbers.
But that massive lead in the state GOP race hasn’t translated into general election popularity. While Romney continues to tie Obama in a head-to-head matchup, Gingrich trails the president by six points:
If Mitt Romney’s the Republican nominee, Obama’s in a lot of trouble in the Sunshine State. Obama leads Romney only 45-44, and given that the undecideds skew largely Republican he’d probably lose to Romney if the election was today. Obama being stuck in the mid-4os against Romney is par for the course in our Florida polling. In September Obama led 46-45, in June it was 47-43, and in March it was 46-44. The dial has barely moved all year.
But if Newt Gingrich is the Republican nominee it’s a completely different story. Obama leads him 50-44 in a head to head. To find the last time a GOP presidential candidate lost Florida by more than that you have to go all the way back to Thomas Dewey in 1948. Even Barry Goldwater did better in Florida than Gingrich is right now.
Romney has more appeal with independent voters, who are the ones who tend to decide elections in swing states. And while he doesn’t incite as much enthusiasm among Republicans in Florida as Gingrich does, this doesn’t seem to hurt him in a general election match up – for any GOP voters Romney may lose, he gains more than enough in independent voter support to close the gap. One concern about having Gingrich as the nominee has been that he’s a loose cannon who could make comments that alienate voters during a general election. But polls like these raise questions about whether or not he could even attract independent voters in swing states.