Maybe Gingrich Dropping Out Wouldn’t Change Anything

Despite the fact that there’s absolutely no chance he’s going to drop out any time soon, the conventional wisdom about Newt Gingrich seems to be that he is hurting Rick Santorum by staying in the race, and that if he dropped out it would aid the more conservative Santorum far more than Mitt Romney. According to a new Gallup Poll, that may not necessarily be true:

PRINCETON, NJ — Republican voters who prefer Newt Gingrich for the party’s 2012 presidential nomination are as likely to name Mitt Romney as their second choice as they are to name Rick Santorum, suggesting the race would not tilt in Santorum’s favor if Gingrich dropped out.

These results are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews conducted March 8-15 with more than 1,900 Republican registered voters, including a sample of 290 Gingrich supporters.

Some conservative Republicans have called for Gingrich to drop out of the race on the assumption that conservative primary voters would then unite behind Santorum as the conservative alternative to the more moderate Romney. But Gallup data indicate that Gingrich voters would not be likely to coalesce behind Santorum, suggesting that factors other than candidate ideology may be attracting voters to Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney.

In fact, with Newt out of the race, there really might not be much of a change in the margin between Romeny and Santorum:

It’s worth noting, of course, that this is a national poll and that a head-to-head race between Romney and Santorum might look very different at the state level, as I noted earlier this week with regard to a poll in North Carolina. Nonetheless, perhaps it does lend some credence to the claim that Gingrich himself made earlier this week that it would actually help Romney if he dropped out of the race, an argument that does make a certain amount of sense if you look at the delegate math.

There’s another factor to consider here. Yes, it’s true that most of Gingrich’s supporters are conservative and they are likely not Romney fans. However, at this point, by sticking with Newt it’s also clear that they aren’t Santorum fans either. Who’s to say that Gingrich dropping out wouldn’t cause most of them to just accept the inevitable and line up behind Romney? They may end up doing that anyway if Newt continues under-performing, but with him out of the race it becomes much more likely.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. It is always problematic to assume (as the CW does) that one block of voters will shift, en masse, to the same choice once their first choice is removed from the pool.