Once I become a blogger of Riehlian proportions, I surely won't have time to respond to all of the comments that are left on my blog, but in honor of my first reader comment (and because the reader was snarky, quoted Strong Bad, and brings up an excellent topic of discussion), I shall respond herewith.
The reader commented thus:
As Strongbad would say, "So friggin' what?"
All that verbosity, and what's your point? Do you actually claim Romney, or any other Republican currently running for president, would do better?
Let's put the "Romney is more viable" thing to bed once and for all. Huckabee can't win outside the South. Romney can't win in the South. McCain has the broadest appeal, and he beats Hillary in the general:
"Hillary Clinton will help drive conservatives and independents McCain's way overnight," said Republican strategist Scott Reed. "I believe that would be a more attractive race for Republicans."
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney matches up far worse against the two Democrats. In polls on a head-to-head matchup with Mrs. Clinton stretching back more than a year, Mr. Romney topped the senator just twice in 77 surveys.
In 55 polls against Mr. Obama, he lost in every one. An ABC News/Washington Post poll from Friday put the senator up by 25 points.
Now, much of the reader's argument is based on head-to-head polls 9-10 months out that show that McCain can beat Hillary or Barak in November and that Romney can't. Remember who was the prohibitive Republican front runner for nearly all of 2007 according to the polls? Rudy Giuliani. Remember how every poll in NH showed Barak beating Hillary? Whether there are 2 polls or 200 all saying the same thing, polls are a notoriously unreliable indicators in general and are bordering on meaningless this far out.
The second part of the reader's argument trots out the meme that the conservative base will be scared into voting for McCain by the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency. This hasn't been borne out by the results thus far. Hillary Clinton has been the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination all along (and probably still is despite Barak's strong campaign) and conservatives have, nevertheless, overwhelmingly NOT voted for McCain. The conservative base in the 28 states that have voted so far have had a chance to huddle behind McCain to protect them from evil HRC and they haven't done so.
It's true that McCain has a much broader appeal with moderates and independents, but he has not shown any strength with the base whatsoever. The whole point of my post was that the majority of the states that have propelled McCain into the lead will not be in the Republicans' column in November no matter who becomes the nominee. Romney and Huckabee have won nearly all of the "red" states that have voted thus far, despite the fact that McCain has won the moderate and independent votes in nearly all of those same states. There simply aren't enough moderates and independents to push McCain to a win in November if the base stays home.
To answer the reader's question, yes, I believe Romney would do better than McCain in November. First, he's won more conservative votes than either McCain or Huckabee, which is a clear indication that he has a good shot at rallying the base. Second, Romney hasn't won any Southern states, but he also hasn't been routed in any of them, with the exception of Arkansas. There is no reason to believe that Romney couldn't carry these very red states if he were the nominee (thus taking Huckabee out of the equation), again given his demonstrated strength with the base.
Lastly, let's not forget that the Democrats are energized, organized, and have a ton of money. McCain mismanaged his campaign nearly to the point of extinction when the race had barely heated up last summer, and had to pledge his donor lists as collateral to get a $3 million loan to keep his campaign afloat in the fall. His fund raising "prowess" is exceptionally weak, and his campaign has very little ground organization. McCain's ability to manage a large campaign enterprise has not been demonstrated by any objective measure. Romney has raised more money than any other Republican, and has done little but manage large enterprises his whole life.
Not to mention that Romney has his personal wealth to draw on, he has no issues in terms of age or health (McCain will be 12 or 26 years older than the Democrat), he has no personal baggage (McCain's temper, Keating 5, multiple affairs, leaving his sick wife, etc.), and he has actual executive experience which neither McCain, Clinton, or Obama can claim.
So, in all of my verbosity, yes, I think that Romney would stand a better chance of winning against the Democrats in November. But, alas, the blue states and the 10-month-out polls say otherwise.