Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The entire electorate has not already locked in an opinion of Newt, as many suggest

One of the many bits of conventional wisdom surrounding the coverage of Newt Gingrich the past few months is that due to his high-profile Speakership from 1995-1998 and continuing to appear on Fox News for nearly the past decade, that everyone knows of him. And more importantly, everyone knows whether they will support him or not already. Thus, the argument goes, Newt has no room to grow.

Rich Galen, a Republican strategist who used to work for Newt, summed up this line of thinking by telling The Washington Post:
“Newt’s name ID is 130 (percent) so just about everyone who has ever even flipped by a cable news channel en route an NCIS rerun knows who (he) is, and has an opinion of him."
While Newt's name identification -- 80-85% -- is quite high, it is in line with the other GOP frontrunners: Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney. More importantly, in my opinion, is that it is a soft identification (some polls put the undecided about Newt number at nearly 40%). While Galen and others are right that most people know of him, how well do they know him? A recent CBS poll even had more Republican primary voters undecided about Newt than Huckabee.

It is easy for Beltway writers and political consultants to assume that everyone in the country follows politics as closely day-to-day as they do. The fact, of course, is most do not. So while most have heard of Gingrich, they may not have necessarily formed a solid opinion of him. In fact, as Matt Towery pointed out recently, nearly half of the public does not even know Newt was Speaker of the House. Some of that is the younger voters who were not old enough to remember obviously but that does not explain all of it.

But, according to Towery's data, when people are told of the numerous accomplishments during the time Newt was Speaker -- a balanced federal budget four years in a row for the first time in 70 years at the same time taxes were being cut, along with the only time an entitlement program (Welfare) has been significantly rolled back -- he shoots to the top of Republican voters' lists.

And while there were controversial parts of Newt's time as Speaker, a focus group of Frank Luntz's that I have discussed before shows that those low moments may not mean much at all:
Gingrich continues to enjoy a gut connection with Republican voters. Back in 2005, consultant Frank Luntz held focus groups in Iowa and New Hampshire on the Republican candidates. In a report published afterward, Luntz wrote, 'We were genuinely surprised by the strongly favorable reaction' to Gingrich's 'speeches and interviews.' According to Luntz, voters ignored, or in some cases forgot, the controversial nature of Gingrich's speakership. 'The words he spoke were like nothing they had heard from anyone else,' Luntz went on. 'While he didn't start either session with any measurable support, he ended both Iowa and New Hampshire sessions with the most new converts.' Out of office, Gingrich has remained largely insulated from the scandals and debacles of the Bush Republicans. In fact, the 2006 midterm election results could be viewed as confirmation of what Gingrich has been saying for some time: that the Republican party and broader conservative movement have lost their way, and the time has come for a rebirth of the reform impulse that in 1994 brought the GOP to congressional majority status for the first time in 40 years.
Earlier this year, Luntz did a focus group in Iowa in which he played clips of all the GOP contenders -- and Newt took the top spot.

Here is a partial video of the focus group:

All of which is to say that Newt has plenty of room to grow -- and he is already in good standing in polls. If he sticks to a few issues -- his record balancing the budget and the other policy wins as Speaker, jobs, energy, and security -- the public will rally to him.

No comments:

Post a Comment

This page is not affiliated with any political campaign or party.

  © Blogger template Webnolia by 2009

Back to TOP