For months now, pundits have described Mitt Romney as the “fragile front-runner.” He’s at the front of the pack simply because the others have fallen behind.
But take a closer look at the numbers and you find that Romney might not be as frail as he looks.
The knock against Romney is that he’s trapped in some sort of polling purgatory. Other candidates rise and fall, while Romney hasn’t budged, holding steady at about 25 percent of the vote.
Yet it’s also true that he hasn’t actually done anything that would get him movement in the polls. He hasn’t spent a dime on ads. He hasn’t done much campaigning. He hasn’t even appeared on a Sunday show. He’s running out the clock, not trying to run up the score.
Second, Romney has room to grow. Despite most GOP voters’ still being undecided or uncommitted, it’s not because they hate Romney. Indeed, a Fox poll out Wednesday night showed the former Massachusetts governor holding a 60 percent favorable to 24 percent unfavorable rating among Republicans. Even among Tea Partiers, Romney is pretty popular with a 52-35 percent favorable-unfavorable rating. For comparison, Herman Cain is at 62-18 percent favorable-unfavorable among the Tea Party crowd.
Finally, he’s running at the top of the pack in the crucial early-state battlegrounds of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. And while Romney’s not blowing away the field, especially in more culturally conservative places such as South Carolina and Iowa, he is holding his own.
National Journal’s Ron Brownstein took a deep dive into the polls and found that “these polls show that while the overlapping circle of Tea Party activists and evangelical Christians remain dubious of Romney, they do not yet appear to be coalescing in a way that could deny him the nomination.”
To be sure, Romney, 64, hasn’t locked this thing up. And his hold on conservative evangelical voters remains shaky, at best. Even so, he has shown that he has the discipline to keep his campaign on the steady path, a rare commodity in this tipsy-turfy campaign season.