Archives: Democrats see Mitt Romney as their biggest threat

Originally published in November 2011
Simon Nguyen

The first vote in the 2012 Republican primary has yet to be cast, but the Democrats have already targeted GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney. According to NPR, the Democratic National Committee recently unleashed a biting TV attack ad on Romney in key primary states.

This maneuver by the Democrats is somewhat unprecedented, since the party of an incumbent president rarely goes to this length to attack another party’s candidate months before the primary even begins. With the former Massachusetts governor facing stiff competition from Newt Gingrich, the Democrats are clearly hoping to put a dent in Romney’s presidential aspirations. 

Among the GOP candidates, Romney is arguably the biggest threat to President Barack Obama’s reelection bid. The Michigan native has consistently polled well in a hypothetical matchup with the president. The latest Quinnipiac poll shows Obama leading Romney by only one percentage point, which is well within the error margin. This is in contrast with the hefty advantage enjoyed by the president over the other Republican candidates.

Romney has also done extremely well with independents – the prized group one needs to capture to win the presidency. In fact, the same Quinnipiac survey shows the former Massachusetts governor leading all GOP candidates in moderate Republican support. Furthermore, the Real Clear Politics’ average of polls puts Romney nearly 17 percentage points ahead of the next strongest rival in independent-rich New Hampshire. The least the Democrats would want is for Romney to ease through the primary process, en route to a showdown with the president.

Gingrich’s recent surge in the polls has given the Democrats an opening to put more pressure on the GOP frontrunner. The DNC clearly hopes its biting attack ad will help to peel off support for Romney in key primary states. It appears that the Democrats would prefer Obama taking on Gingrich rather than Romney. While Gingrich is not a lightweight opponent, he carries much more political baggage than his Republican rival, having involved in politics for decades.

In the immediate term, the DNC’s attack ad may actually backfire. Primary voters tend to coalesce around their party’s candidates when they are being attacked by the other political party. By singling out Romney, the DNC is giving stature to his campaign.

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