Romney takes lead in race for Republican vote
Presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s early wins at the Republican Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries show that most voters consider a candidate’s electability over their principles.
His lead has extended to 20 delegates, leaving candidates Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, behind at 12 and three, respectively. Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House of Representatives, has none.
“In politics, anything can happen,” said John Weingart, associate director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics. “But unless some information is revealed about Romney that is new and very damning, I don’t see how anyone else could win the nomination.”
Weingart said electability is the major driving force behind Romney as Republican constituents look for someone to face President Barack Obama in November.
“For a large part of Republicans, it is most important that Obama be defeated. That is more important than preference for one candidate or another,” he said.
Weingart said if Romney wins the GOP candidacy this summer, it would be because of his electability and the fact that his opposition divided the voters — never forming a unified front.
Romney won the Iowa caucus taking 24.6 percent of the vote, leaving Santorum a mere 0.1 percent behind. The following week in New Hampshire, Romney again led the state, but Paul came in second, and Jon Huntsman — a recent candidacy dropout — came in third, according to The Associated Press.
Weingart compared the upcoming election between Obama and the Republican Party’s choice to the one in 2004 when Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., faced former President George W. Bush.
“It wasn’t as much antagonism against Kerry in the Democratic Party as there is against Romney in the Republican Party,” he said. “The Democrats united behind Kerry because he was the most electable even though he lost.”
Rutgers University College Republicans President Connor Montferrat said he believed Romney would win the candidacy but that Paul had a chance at swiping the nomination.
“In the end though, it’s about party unity,” said Montferrat, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. “No matter who the candidate is, it’s going to come down to us coming together to beat Obama.”
Montferrat said Paul has been overlooked because most voters do not consider him a true Republican, but rather a Libertarian.
Weingart said Paul was in his current position in the polls because there had not been a large enough group to support his policies, although a great part of younger voters have backed him.
In Iowa, Paul won the majority of under-30 voters’ support and more than a third of those between 30 and 45 years of age, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll.
“[The youth vote] just isn’t nearly enough to propel to him to the nomination of the Republican Party,” Weingart said. “There isn’t a large enough segment of the electorate who subscribes to the mix of his set of views. There is an intellectual consistency to them, but it’s a real mixture.”
Rutgers University Democrats President Matt Kohut said he saw Romney as the strongest candidate, but there could be a close match-up between him and another Republican vying for the nomination.
“Romney has an aura of fighting strongly for the rich and powerful and continuing tax breaks for fellow high-income earners,” said Kohut, a School of Engineering senior.
Although Romney seems to be the strongest opponent to Obama, the president still leads all the GOP candidates in recent polls, he said.
“The youth of this school and across America tend to favor those issues and continued funding for the agencies protecting their world,” he said.
Kohut said he is hopeful in regard to Obama’s chances in November when he faces either one of the candidates.
“When November comes and they look at what the candidates were saying today, they will overwhelmingly see that Obama generally supports the issues they care about and return him to the White House for another term,” Kohut said.
Opinions ranged across the University campus. Some said Paul had their support in the Republican candidacy race, but they did not think he would stand a chance against Romney or possibly Obama.
Hadiya Abdelrahman, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said she liked Paul best of all the GOP candidates, but would still vote for President Obama.
“[Paul] seems so far the only one whose policies I would support, but I guess it’s like picking the best of the worst,” she said. “But it would be very hard for him to catch up to Romney.”
She said the Republican Party had a chance against Obama as their influence has grown in Congress and especially in the House of Representatives.
“I think we are underestimating the growth of the power of the Republican Party,” Abdelrahman said. “It’s going to be a real standoff between Obama and Romney.”
Alex Tsouristakis, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said Romney seemed to be the only candidate to stand above the rest.
“I think he is one of the only candidates that doesn’t have serious baggage, even though he is one of the least interesting candidates,” he said. “For the most part, I think people are going with whoever says the right thing at the right time and what the people want to hear.”