The big story to come from the PPP Republican poll isn’t Rick Santorum’s lead, but Mitt Romney complete collapse in favorability with his fellow Republicans.
According to the latest PPP poll, Rick Santorum leads Mitt Romney 38%-23%, with Newt Gingrich (17%) and Ron Paul (13%) following. Part of the reason that Santorum has been able to take such a big lead in the poll is that Republican voters have seriously soured on Mitt Romney.
Despite the fact that his campaign has tried to aggressively shift to the right, Mitt Romney’s favorability rating with Republicans has gone from a net (+24), 55%-31% in December to a net (+1) in February. A possible answer for the GOP souring on Romney can be found by looking at the favorability ratings for the other candidate Romney has been engaging in a war of words with, Newt Gingrich.
Since December, Newt Gingrich has lost a net 34 points in favorability with Republican voters. Gingrich has gone from a net (+32), 60%-28% to a net (-2), 42%-44%. It appears that Republicans are rejecting the negative ads and attacks that have become the basis of Romney and Gingrich’s campaigns. Santorum’s favorability rating has jumped to 64% likely because he is speaks the language of the evangelical base, and he has avoided the negativity trap.
Mitt Romney has been able to generate no positive enthusiasm for his campaign among Republicans. His only effective strategy has been to use his superior organizational and fundraising advantages to tear down the images of his opponents through relentless negative advertising campaigns. Since he has little positive support for his candidacy in order to win, Romney has to bring his opponents down to his level of popularity.
Candidates run negative ads because they work, but studies have shown that candidates who rely on too many on negative ads also become defined by their own advertising. Once voters make the emotional connection between the negative ad and the candidate presenting the ad, a backlash occurs.
The Wall Street Journal has already warned Romney about what they referred to as his relentlessly negative campaign, “This may get Mr. Romney to 50.1% of the GOP delegates, but he’d be a weaker nominee for it. The low GOP turnout in early primary states is one sign of his weakness. What Mr. Romney needs is to make a better, positive case for his candidacy beyond his business resume.”
There have been 11 different leaders so far in the race for Republican nomination, so the fact that Rick Santorum has taken the lead is not very surprising. The real story is that Mitt Romney’s never ending campaign of negativity is destroying his candidacy.
Romney is literally killing Republican voter enthusiasm with his endless barrage of negative ads. More importantly, his inability to deliver a positive message is hurting the entire Republican Party.
Republican voter uncertainty about Mitt Romney is quickly turning into dislike. Rick Santorum isn’t leading because he is a great candidate. The former Pennsylvania senator is leading because voters are fleeing Mitt Romney and his negative ads.