Newt Gingrich’s Electability Gap

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Whether it’s on the state or national level, Gingrich is currently the candidate causing conservative hearts to flutter. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Wednesday found him with a 10-point lead over Romney among Republicans, 28% to 18%. When Independents were factored in, that lead dipped slightly to seven points. But when all voters were asked to choose between Obama and a Republican candidate, Romney carried 40% to Obama’s 48%, while Gingrich got 38% to Obama’s 51%.

Those results expose the gap between the beliefs of party activists in states like Iowa, where likely caucus-goers earlier this month said they thought Gingrich is the favorite against Obama (29% to Romney’s 24%), and the realities of the national general electorate. So why the discrepancy?

On the ground in Iowa, where caucuses will be held on Jan. 3, Gingrich is seen as a rhetorically blessed veteran who’s most capable of taking on a sitting President—and the candidate who is more true to the right’s convictions. Respondents in the Post/ABC poll were asked a series of questions about the candidates. Who best understands the problems of people like you? Who has the best experience to be President? Who best reflects your party’s core values? Who will stand up for those values? Gingrich beat Romney in all those categories, including by a 24-point margin when it came to experience.

But while Iowans are in the throes of passion over Gingrich’s feisty debate performances, other voters seem to be weighting the adultery, congressional sanctioning and penchant for wild remarks a little more heavily.