Nowhere for Romney to Go But Down

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 7 2011 10:50 AM

Nowhere for Romney to Go But Down

Congratulations, Mitt Romney! You have won the Hillary Clinton seat for the 2012 primaries. You're the long-distance frontrunner who is now expected to win New Hampshire . The Magellan poll of "likely 1,451 Republican primary voters," about 2/3 GOP registered and 1/3 independent:

Mitt Romney - 39 percent
Sarah Palin - 16 percent
Mike Huckabee - 10 percent
Newt Gingrich - 8 percent
Ron Paul - 7 percent
Tim Pawlenty - 4 percent 
another candidate - 4 percent
Rick Santorum - 3 percent
Haley Barbour - 1 percent

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Romney has to be considered the frontrunner, even though he's polling only 7 points higher than his vote from the 2008 primary. (Huckabee and Paul poll one point lower than their 2008 results.) He has the highest favorable ratings, 73 percent to 16 percent unfavorable. That's up from the 62 percent of Republican primary voters who had a favorable opinion of Romney on primary day 2008. (John McCain, the winner, had a 75 percent favorable rating from primary voters.) The inevitable conclusion -- a year of fellow Republicans and the Union Leader beating the hell out of Romney, especially over health care reform, can hurt him. Only Haley Barbour starts with a negative favorable rating, so there's a ton of room for Romney rivals to grow. And because he's the only 2012 candidate with any geographic claim to New Hampshire, anything less than a monster win makes him look a lot like Muskie.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.