Rasmussen just came out with a pre-debate poll that shows Obama leading both Romney and Santorum by ten and seven points respectively. Couple this with headlines touting good news on the economy (some of which is definitely real and some illusory) and it’s enough to send something stronger than a frisson of fear coursing up a conservative’s spine. While a few months ago it looked as if Obama could lose to a generic Republican candidate, it’s becoming increasingly clear that it will be harder for a specific Republican candidate to beat him.
Conservative and Republican voters are deeply divided between Romney and Santorum (although both have shamefully big government voting records, making them a Hobson’s choice). Is it possible that, when a pollster calls a Santorum voter and asks him to give his opinion about a possible Obama vs. Romney match-up, that voter finds it very hard to imagine himself pulling the lever for Romney? After all, today, he is as opposed to Romney as he is to Obama. The same holds true for Romney supporters who are asked to envision a Santorum vs. Obama election.
The question that ought to concern us is whether this distaste for the other Republican candidate will continue once the primary season is over, so that Romney supporters will hang back if Santorum wins the nomination and vice versa. In that case, Obama will indeed win. If, however, conservative and Republican voters consolidate behind the last candidate standing, that block should be sufficient to shift the polling weight and, more importantly, the election outcome.
What do you think will happen? Will Republicans and conservatives be able to come together behind a single candidate, or has this primary been so divisive that the Republican party is too wounded to win?