Conservatives are always reticent to pick a candidate because he or she is electable, or perceived as such. The GOP has been stuck with some milquetoast duds over the years by putting electability first. But will that be mitigated by the visceral desire within to beat Barack Obama?
In Colorado, we may well find out, because it is here that the question "who do you like" runs broad side into the question of "who can beat Obama". Two pieces of the recently released PPP survey highlight this emerging conflict.
While Newt Gingrich is handily beating Mitt Romney among the GOP primary electorate in PPP's most recent poll, the general election match up between Gingrich and Obama shows signs of the former House Speaker’s uphill struggle to defeat the President.
Gingrich takes the primary electorate 37-18 over Romney, but in a general election match up against Obama, Gingrich loses 50-42, while Romney is only two points behind Obama at 47-45.
We should point out that the general election polling done by PPP in Colorado is highly suspect. The last time they polled in Colorado their sample size was completely unrepresentative of the Colorado electorate, oversampling Democrats by 8 percent and under-sampling Republicans by 5 percent compared to active voter registration numbers at the time.
This time around their sample is slightly less skewed, but still not reflective of the actual Colorado electorate. They sampled Democrats at 37% to Republicans at 35%. Yet, on December 1 — the day the poll began — the Secretary of State shows the actual numbers of active voters to be 37.3% Republican to 32.2% Democrat.
What this means is if the poll actually included a fair representation of Colorado voters Romney would likely be beating Obama and Gingrich would be down by less.
Though PPP continues to struggle in getting Colorado right, their finding of a distinctly different chance of victory for Republicans between Gingrich and Romney is something mirrored in other polls around the country.
For Gingrich, it means he will be under pressure to boost his general election numbers in the coming weeks. While Republicans don't put electability ahead of everything else, it is certainly part of the equation.
For Romney, we bet his campaign is hoping against hope that Republicans place a greater emphasis on electability than they have in previous years. We expect to see Romney's camp push this line of argument harder as voting time gets closer.
2010 was the year of no-excuses conservatism, electability be damned. We wonder to what degree that might change in 2012 with Obama the number one target of conservatives. Luckily for Gingrich, he's no witch like Christine O'Donnell.