Why do Republicans oppose Romney?
I'll analyze the full poll later. For now, let's look at the Romney numbers. In a state that's just a notch to the right of the nation, and that POTUS won by 5 points in 2004, Hillary Clinton beats Mitt Romney by 11 points, 50 percent to 39 percent. Is name recognition a factor? Of course. But even if all 11 percent who are undecided go to Romney upon learning more about him, that would give Romney, at best, a 50/50 race with Hillary in purple Florida. Not encouraging.
The internals paint an even more interesting picture. Romney is winning only 11 percent of Democrats. That's the same portion that Bush won nationally in 2004. He loses independents by 7 points, but that's to be expected with all the anti-GOP sentiments in the country right now. A full 17 percent of independents are undecided in the poll. I suspect name recognition truly is a factor here; these indies clearly don't want to vote Hillary, who has near-perfect name recognition, and I suspect that a good Romney campaign could get a lot of the undecided indies on board. Still, even if Mitt won the undecided indies by 2-1, he'd still be exactly where Bush was among them in 2004, tied with the Democrat among independents.
So Romney's faring no better than Bush among Dems and indies, but still underperforming the president by 16 points in Florida. How can this be? The answer lies in the Republican portion of the electorate. In the poll, Romney wins only 78 percent of Republicans. That's less than McCain's 82 percent and Rudy's 87 percent. Sen. Allen also wins a similar portion of GOP voters, coming in at 79 percent. So this is simply a function of name recognition for both Allen and Romney, right? I'm not so sure. In Allen's case, I suspect name recognition is holding down his GOP support. But with Mitt, these Republicans not committed to Romney aren't simply undecided. Instead, they're voting for Hillary!
That's right; a Romney candidacy allows Hillary to garner 16 percent of the Republican vote. Contrast that with the 8 percent that Giuliani sends over to Hillary or with the 12 percent that results from a Hillary/McCain race.
The McCain numbers aren't surprising. Many Republicans have a visceral contempt for the Arizona senator and would stop at nothing to prevent his presidency, even if it means doing the unthinkable: pulling the lever for Mrs. Clinton. But even McCain doesn't result in a 16 percent share of GOP voters ending up in Hillary's column. Why then do so many Republicans oppose Romney under the radar?
I think the answer is probably simpler than we all think, and it would explain both the quiet opposition to Mitt and the erratic behavior of conservatives in this poll. Romney's a Mormon. Most Americans aren't. Many Americans think that Mormonism is a cult. This is especially prevalent among conservative Christians. Many Republicans are conservative Christians. Do the math.
If there truly is a stealth opposition to Mitt among conservatives who won't verbalize their sentiments for fear of being ostracized as bigots, but who intend to march into the voting booth during the primaries and pull the lever for anyone who's NOT a Mormon, future polling will continue to pick up on it. For now, suffice it to say that a candidate who sends 16 percent of Republican voters over to a Democrat who is univerally despised among the GOP electorate does not look like a winner. And that's a real shame.