I really don’t like obsessing over the latest polls but the one above illustrates Mitt Romney’s basic problem. While other candidates rise and fall, he’s stuck in the same place.
The good news for Mitt – his base appears solid. The bad news for Mitt – his base is all he’s got and could be all he ever gets. When the field narrows next month if all the Not-Romney votes settle on one candidate he’s toast.
I’ll bet Romney’s kicking himself now for not having abandoned Iowa early on. If he had done that, he could have sent his supporters out to caucus for Paul, thereby detonating Newt’s chances; if he tried that now, having competed in earnest in the state, the headlines would be all about Romney’s shockingly poor finish in Iowa, which would actually help Gingrich in New Hampshire even if he finished second to Paul in the caucuses. (On the other hand, per Rasmussen, Paul’s just four points back of Gingrich for second place in New Hampshire too.) Two exit questions for you, then. One: As chances of a Paul upset grow, will Iowa’s Republican leaders swing behind Newt or Mitt? They want the caucuses to remain relevant to choosing the eventual nominee, and if Paul wins, that’ll be two elections in a row where the Iowa winner realistically had no chance. Two: Could a Paul victory achieve a real “none of the above” outcome for the nomination? A brokered convention is unlikely – but, as Sean Trende explains, not impossible if Paul fares well.
I don’t know about Romney but Tim Pawlenty should feel pretty stupid right now.