N2K: Is Mitch Daniels the GOP’s Best Bet Against Obama?

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April 27, 2011, 1:31 p.m.

A Fox News poll; con­duc­ted 10/9 by Pulse Opin­ion Re­search (IVR); sur­veyed 1,000 LVs; mar­gin of er­ror +/- 3.1% (re­lease, 10/12). Party ID break­down: 46%D, 35%R, 19%I. Tested: New Castle Co. Ex­ec Chris Coons (D) and ‘08 nom­in­ee/‘06 can­did­ate/mar­ket­ing con­sult­ant Christine O’Don­nell (R). Note: Pulse Opin­ion Re­search uses “meth­od­o­logy and pro­ced­ures li­censed from” Rasmussen Re­ports (IVR).

Gen­er­al Elec­tion Match­up

- All Dem GOP Ind Men Wom 9/18 C. Coons 54% 83% 20% 49% 52% 57% 54% C. O’Don­nell 38 11 73 40 40 36 39 Oth­er 3 3 3 3 4 2 2 Un­dec 5 3 4 8 4 5 5


- All Dem GOP Ind Men Wom C. Coons 50%/38% 79%/10% 17%/72% 42%/45% 47%/43% 52%/34% C. O’Don­nell 33 /58 11 /80 64 /29 29 /60 36 /57 30 /60

(For more from this poll, please see today’s DE In The States stor­ies.)

NORTH­FIELD, N.H. —The scene is a rus­tic old build­ing perched on a pretty river in the cen­ter of the state. The walls are knotty pine, and the pot-bel­lied stoves are put­ting out real heat.

It is stand­ing room only in the middle of the day and the middle of the week, and every­body is there for “¦ Rick San­tor­um.

GOP pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate Rick San­tor­um on the cam­paign trail. (Flickr/Gage Skid­more)

The last time I saw the former sen­at­or from Pennsylvania on the cam­paign trail, he was mak­ing a lonely bid for at­ten­tion at the Iowa straw poll last Au­gust. That day, there was bar­be­cue and dan­cing in Michele Bach­mann‘s tent. Rick Perry was about to an­nounce he was get­ting in the race. It was all very ex­cit­ing, with mu­sic and bal­loons and faux vot­ing. And San­tor­um could not buy at­ten­tion for love or money.

Need­less to say, things have changed.

Un­like the pro­longed Iowa caucus cam­paign, which ended in a fin­ish so tight that they were still fight­ing by week’s end about wheth­er Mitt Rom­ney had won by eight or nine votes, New Hamp­shire’s fi­nal week is cold, slip­pery, and in­tense.

Ad­vert­ising crowds the air­waves, ac­cus­ing Rom­ney of be­ing in­sin­cere (Jon Hunts­man) and the world be­ing on the pre­cip­ice of dis­aster (Ron Paul). One New Hamp­shire voter who is plan­ning to vote Re­pub­lic­an this year told me she got a call dur­ing the week from the Obama cam­paign.

No one, it seems, can af­ford to look away, or at least not for long. Rom­ney, whose double-di­git New Hamp­shire lead has be­gun erod­ing since Iowa, ducked out to cam­paign in South Car­o­lina but was back in the Gran­ite State the next day. Paul took a few days off, but ar­rived by week’s end to en­er­gize his in­cred­ibly loy­al band of fol­low­ers.

Newt Gin­grich is hopscotch­ing every­where, prom­ising at al­most every step to take his best shot at Rom­ney. And Hunts­man, who for­sook Iowa on the off chance that he could un­der­cut Rom­ney, a former Mas­sachu­setts gov­ernor, on prac­tic­ally his own home turf, is hop­ing for a San­tor­um-like surge of his own.

Hunts­man has been telling any­one who will listen that the Iowa caucus res­ults, where Rom­ney won about a quarter of the vote, were really a re­pu­di­ation of the front-run­ner—be­cause 75 per­cent of the caucus-go­ers raised their hands for someone else.

That leaves Hunts­man to make his own pitch for his share of that 75, be they con­ser­vat­ive, mod­er­ate or—es­pe­cially—among New Hamp­shire’s fam­ous, feisty in­de­pend­ents.

GOP can­did­ate Jon Hunts­man speaks with Gwen Ifill. (PBS News­Hour)

“No ques­tion about it, if you were to dis­ag­greg­ate our town-hall meet­ing in New Hamp­shire, the av­er­age town-hall meet­ing, you would see that there are Re­pub­lic­ans, a whole lot of in­de­pend­ents, and even Demo­crats who are show­ing up,” Hunts­man told me.

When I asked wheth­er that makes him the choice of mod­er­ate Re­pub­lic­ans, he res­isted the char­ac­ter­iz­a­tion. He has, Hunts­man said, “cross-cut­ting ap­peal.”

“I have a hard time with people put­ting la­bels on your fore­head,” he said. “I think that’s un­fair in polit­ics. And some people ac­tu­ally con­fuse a mod­er­ate tem­pera­ment with a mod­er­ate track re­cord.”

Hunts­man, who snagged a Bo­ston Globe en­dorse­ment on Fri­day, may be the only Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ate res­ist­ing la­bels. Al­most every­one is a “con­sist­ent con­ser­vat­ive,” “a lead­er,” or, in the case of Paul, “the one we’ve been look­ing for.”

Some­times this makes for jar­ring jux­ta­pos­i­tions. Watch­ing 2008 GOP nom­in­ee John Mc­Cain take the stage to en­dorse Rom­ney on Wed­nes­day did noth­ing to erase the memory of Mc­Cain savaging Rom­ney in this same primary con­test only four years ago.

And watch­ing San­tor­um struggle through a crush of voters (and let’s face it, re­port­ers like me) only weeks after be­ing treated like polit­ic­al road kill is an­oth­er re­mind­er that topsy-turvy polit­ics nev­er gets old.

New Hamp­shire voters, it’s over to you.

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