At Tuesday’s Election Watch event, the fourth in a series at AEI, a panel of experts provided insight into the close and still raging GOP primary battle between Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. Karlyn Bowman referenced recent polls showing highly unfavorable ratings for Republican frontrunners Romney and Santorum. According to Bowman, the polls likewise indicate that Americans do not like intrusive government in the health care realm. Henry Olsen explained that Romney is losing rural voters, using the locations of sports franchises as an analogy. All in all, Romney is not effectively connecting to many Republican voters — whereas he has been carrying the “somewhat conservative” vote in most states, Santorum has been thriving in the areas that voted for Mike Huckabee in the 2008 GOP primaries. Michael Barone elaborated on the topic of Romney, claiming that wealthy voters are kindred spirits with the candidate. Moreover, the categories from which Republicans draw their electoral strength are changing. Norm Ornstein concluded the discussion by saying that the Republican Party is suffering from having veered too far to the right, and highlighted the GOP positions on minimum wage and illegal immigration as two examples of this phenomenon.
Rick Santorum's pair of wins in Alabama and Mississippi not only bolsters his run for the Republican nomination, but also further fuels the argument that many Republicans are unhappy with the prospect of a Mitt Romney candidacy. Does Santorum's recent spate of primary victories firmly establish him as the conservative alternative to Romney? What could happen in Illinois and the other upcoming contests? And what does the future hold for Newt Gingrich?
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