Larry Sabato over at the University of Virginia Center for Politics has this excellent analysis. Long and short of it is: Newt Gingrich is more of a gamble to beat President Obama, should he win the Republican nomination.
To be clear, President Obama is vulnerable. His approval rating – 46% approve, 48.6% disapprove, according to the RealClearPolitics approval average — is middling. And against Mitt Romney, Obama’s vulnerability shows: in Pollster.com’s average of national polling, Obama leads Romney just 46.5% to 45.3%. But against Gingrich, the average tells a very different story — Obama, at 49.9%, leads Gingrich (39.1%) by more than 10 points.
Granted, there are outliers: Gallup on Tuesday had both Romney and Gingrich running evenly with Obama, both down 50% to 48%. But the bulk of the polling data indicates that Romney, at least at this point, is the stronger candidate against Obama.
Why does Romney fare better? Well, the best candidate against Obama remains “generic Republican” — that make-believe person who leads Obama by a single slim point, according to RealClearPolitics. Let’s be honest here: Romney’s the closest thing out there to a generic Republican available. He is not going to steal the presidency away from the incumbent if Obama’s having a good year and the economy is solid. Rather, if the country is ready to make a change, then Romney would be a credible alternative. The national polling numbers bear that out; they also show that Gingrich, at least right now, is not seen as a similarly acceptable alternative.
In other words, in the key battleground states of Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire, Iowa and Florida, Gingrich looks like a risk to LOSE these states.
Here is my Electoral College Map from some months ago:
This map is from the interactive site, 270towin.com
Sobato and his staff make the argument that Gingrich will perform worse (at least he is polling worse now) than Romney in the states, the GOP needs to win to beat Obama.
This may very well be true, and the GOP Establishment have their own maps and are looking at the Senate and House race polls across the nation.
Romney is SAFE and Gingrich MAY underperform Obama.
But, what does the GOP base want in a candidate? A generic Republican, Romney nominee or a firebrand, big idea guy, like Gingrich.
Guess we will find out next tuesday in Florida.