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Romney, The Speech, and Social Conservatism

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It has been speculated by some political strategists (e.g. Dick Morris) that Mitt Romney's recent speech on religion and faith at Texas A&M University was delivered not so much to quell the 'issue' of his Mormonism, but rather to reassure cultural conservatives that he is, in fact, a reliable conservative.

The rise of Mike Huckabee in national and state (Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada) polls has come in large part at the expense of Fred Thompson—who was originally viewed as the conservative alternative to Rudy Giuliani. However, Huckabee's surge has been so large that he has no doubt also taken away some of the initial soft support for Romney and Giuliani. But Romney is touting his social conservative credentials—credentials seemed tarnished by some, not because he is a Mormon, but because he ran as a pro-choice candidate for Governor of Massachusetts.

A recent Associated Press / Pew Research Center poll of likely Republican voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina suggests Morris' reason for 'the speech' might hold true in Iowa, but less so in the other key primary states. The AP/Pew survey asked Republicans which candidate best reflected their "views on social issues like abortion and gay rights." In Iowa, 27 percent cited Huckabee, with Romney a distant second at 15 percent. But Huckabee did not reach double figures on this issue in either New Hampshire or South Carolina, cited by just 9 percent of Republicans in each state. In New Hampshire, 28 percent named Romney; in South Carolina, Romney, at 15 percent, was just 1 point behind Giuliani and Thompson.

However, Huckabee's social conservative issue numbers could easily rise in New Hampshire and especially South Carolina as he becomes more well known (most of his resources are poured into the Hawkeye State). Romney is therefore smart to stake his claim to the social conservative mantle.

Romney is already seen by Republican voters in all three states as the candidate best reflecting their views on dealing with taxes, and in Iowa and New Hampshire for making wise decisions about what to do in Iraq and dealing with immigration.

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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