Many commentators who are friendly to the conservative cause have rightly argued (for example, see here and here) that independent voters will likely determine the outcome of the 2012 presidential election. With exit polling in 2010 having shown an electorate comprising 35 percent Republicans, 35 percent Democrats, and 29 percent independents, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that, in all likelihood, the election will go whichever way independents go.
Mitt Romney has seized upon this notion in his campaign, explicitly arguing that he stands a better chance than Newt Gingrich or any other GOP candidate of beating President Obama, thereby implicitly arguing that he’s better suited to win over independent voters. Kathleen Parker takes it a few steps further, writing that “no one other than Callista Gingrich thinks her husband can prevail in a general election” (italics in original).
If Callista is indeed the only one who thinks this, then recent Rasmussen polling suggests she might be the only who’s right. Rasmussen shows that, in potential matchups with Obama, Gingrich and Romney are faring almost identically well among likely independent voters — as both are essentially tied with Obama among such voters.
The last three Rasmussen polls pitting Gingrich versus Obama (all taken within the past 25 days) show Obama leading Gingrich among independents by an average tally of 41 to 40 percent. Across that same span, the three Rasmussen polls pitting Romney versus Obama show the two men tied at 39 percent apiece, on average, among independents. In other words, Rasmussen shows all three of these candidates — Gingrich, Romney, and Obama — running in essentially a dead-heat among likely independent voters in potential general election matchups.