In North Carolina At Least, Newt Is Helping Romney
The North Carolina Primary isn’t until May 8th, but at the moment it is providing a fairly stark example of what the impact of Newt Gingrich staying in the race actually is:
North Carolina provides a great example of the spoiler role Newt Gingrich is now playing in the Republican Presidential race. With Gingrich in the field a split conservative vote allows Mitt Romney to lead in the state with 31% to 27% for Rick Santorum, 24% for Gingrich, and 8% for Ron Paul. But if Gingrich was out of the picture most of his support would go to Santorum, giving last night’s big winner 42% to 38% for Romney and 10% for Paul.
Digging in on the numbers with some key groups shows how the conservative split aids Romney. Among Tea Party voters Santorum gets 31% to 30% for Gingrich and 25% for Romney. Take Gingrich out and Santorum’s advantage with those folks is 52-37. Similar story with Evangelicals- full field it’s Santorum at 31% t0 28% for Romney and 26% for Gingrich. Take Gingrich out and Santorum’s advantage with that group is 49/33. And with ‘very conservative’ voters Santorum’s at 35% to 28% for Gingrich and 23% for Romney full field, but up 57-28 on Romney if Gingrich was out of the race.
One would imagine that you will see numbers like this repeated in other parts of the country, and it may well lead to more conservatives to put pressure on Gingrich to drop out. Even if that happens, though, it wouldn’t necessarily help Santorum. For one thing, a two-man race between him and Romney means a lot of more focus on Santorum and his record, and each time that has happened in the past it has ended up hurting him and helping Romney. For another, to pick the specific example of North Carolina which is fully proportional in its delegate allocation, Newt getting out actually hurtSo, s Santorum because it makes it harder for him to catch Romney in the delegate race.
So even if Santorum gets that two man race he seems to desire, it seems likely that he will find himself playing the Hillary Clinton role in a replay of the 2008 Democratic Primary race.