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Gallup chief Frank Newport said that Mitt Romney's support is "collapsing" and that everything is within the realm of possibilities in this Republican primary. “We have seen more movement, more roller coaster kind of effect this year than any other Republican primary in our history of tracking,” Newport said, according to TPM. “I think anything is possible. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility if Romney recovers. We’ll wait and see.”
Confident pundits who treat the choice among them as an open-and-shut matter are behaving as . . . mere pundits. As are those who confidently proclaim which of the candidates is “most electable.” For example, right now, Romney seems a stronger general election candidate than Gingrich. That’s what most of the polling so far would suggest. But these polls don’t capture the implications of the last couple of weeks of the campaign, which suggest that Gingrich can make the case for himself to heretofore unconvinced voters in a way Romney cannot. Admittedly, these are mostly Republican voters Newt has been charming. Can he similarly win over independents, or disaffected Democrats?
We don’t know. We do suspect, however, that the mainstream media’s view—and conservative elites’ view—of who the swing voters are is somewhat distorted. Every journalist knows upper-middle-class, suburban, socially moderate independents on the East and West Coasts who (for now, at least) would be more likely to vote Republican if the nominee were Romney rather than Gingrich. Journalists do not tend to know the lower-middle-class, non-college-educated, churchgoing voters of exurban Tampa, or the working-class Reagan Democrats of Toledo, who are also swing voters, and who might prefer Gingrich. In any case, for now we don’t really know which of the two frontrunners—or, for that matter, which of the other candidates—would have a better chance to win. And that’s without factoring in possible third and fourth parties, which could well appear on the scene in 2012 and would have different kinds of appeal depending on the identity of the GOP nominee.
We do not know. But if it’s not given to us mere humans to know, we are capable of learning. We’re a month away from the Iowa caucus. There are three months before 90 percent of the Republicans in the nation begin voting, and even then, further information will be produced and processed as the primaries unfold. The Democrats are stuck with their nominee—a failed and unpopular president. Republicans, by contrast, are free to choose. They are in no way required to rush to judgment. And they need not defer to pundits whose “station, office, and dignity” impel them to claim to know what they do not know.