It’s the Base, Stupid
I’ve been saying for a while to people I know that Romney has a weakness which has not been widely discussed so far: he will fail to bring out the hardcore base, in particular the Religious Right.
In many recent elections, this has been a vital component for Republicans. They depend on the churchgoers, the people who are motivated by the kind of God-related stuff Newt has been peddling. Much of this is church-centered–their local churches are almost organizing centers, the church leaders tell them, directly or indirectly, who to go out and vote for, and they do. They are to the GOP what the African-American vote was for Obama in 2008.
For all of Romney’s other strengths, this is a key weakness: these people will see a Mormon who, despite his recent protestations, is on tape saying he believes strongly in a woman’s right to choose abortion.
These people will not head towards the polls with the same enthusiasm they have in the past few decades.
When I have said this, I kind of get lukewarm responses, like what I’m talking about won’t really be as much of an issue as I make it out to be. However, I just got an initial confirmation that it is, in fact, the case–this from a HuffPo contributor and professor from George Mason University:
In the graph I’ve plotted by county the percent vote for Gingrich against the percent change in turnout from 2008 to 2012. The graph tells a clear story. In counties where Gingrich did better, Republican turnout was up over 2008. In counties where Romney dominated, turnout was lower.
This is also reflected by the fact that GOP turnout was high in South Carolina, which Newt won, but low in Florida, which Romney won.
If, as people now believe, Romney will be the candidate (I draw no such conclusions myself, things being as volatile as they are), then the signs are excellent for the Democrats. Not just for Obama, mind you. If Romney depresses GOP turnout, this could give Obama significant coattails and could effect key Congressional races–and might guarantee Democrats control over the House in 2013. Newt will almost certainly lose the presidency if nominated, but he could at least bring out the core vote enough to generate victories for the GOP at the congressional level.