The Republican Party primaries can sometimes seem of strictly limited interest, even to a Wannabe Yank, and following them closely by extension a niche pursuit one step away from being, say, a member of the Labour Party.
But if you need a reason to take the GOP’s internecine warfare seriously, then just check out the latest Washington Post-ABC News opinion poll, which suggests a very strong chance that one of these buggers will be the next president. Whilst Obama’s numbers are better than they have been, only one post-war incumbent – Nixon – has begun an election year with a sub-fifty approval rating, and perhaps even more worryingly Obama’s support amongst those all-important independent voters is also low.
So for my money, the GOP pre-election elections are worth watching closely, with the next this coming Saturday in South Carolina. The most recent poll still places Romney with a modest lead over Gingrich in second, and whilst these figures don’t take into account the departure of Huntsman or any impact from last night’s debate, the received wisdom (by which I mean ‘wisdom I have received’) is that whilst Romeny did not do well, he certainly didn’t do badly enough to seriously harm his chances when there are so many NonRoms left to split the vote against him.
And let’s not forget: whilst South Carolina might be ‘more Republican’ than New Hampshire and Iowa, and the first Southern primary (i.e. uncomfortable territory for Mitt) it’s also a much bigger state – geographically and in terms of population. Then we’re on, in short order, to Florida and Super Tuesday, with wide reach – advertising, web, social media – becoming ever more crucial, the kind of capacity that Team Romney has in spades (a point made in the middle of this lengthy ‘local perspective’ post on an SC news site).