In addition to the standard horse race stuff on our national Republican poll this month we also polled on some of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich's vulnerabilities- we described their potential baggage to poll respondents without actually naming them as the candidates in question.
Here's how it came out from least perilous problems for them to most perilous:
-Romney's religion. Only 20% of Republican primary voters say they'd be unwilling to vote for a Mormon for President to 65% who say they'd be willing to and 15% who are unsure. Obviously that's a bit of a problem for Romney but I expected the number who wouldn't vote for a Mormon to be higher than that. Of course that may be more of a subconscious thing for voters, or something that they don't care to admit to a pollster, even an automated one. For what it's worth the Republicans who won't vote for a Mormon split nearly even between Sarah Palin (32%) and Mike Huckabee (30%).
-Gingrich's divorces. 30% of Republican primary voters say that a candidate having been divorced three times is a disqualifier. (We mistakenly asked about a hypothetical candidate who's been divorced 3 times, instead of one who's been married 3 times like in the case of Gingrich. Not sure whether that impacts the numbers or not.) 45% say they'd definitely be willing to vote for someone with multiple divorces on their resume and 24% are unsure. One thing that's particularly bad news for Gingrich on that front- he's actually getting 14% from Republicans who say they wouldn't vote for a thrice divorced candidate, the same as his overall support from GOP voters. That suggests a lot of voters aren't familiar with his marriage history and that if it becomes an issue it could cost him some of his support further down the line.
-Romney's health care plan. This is the killer. 61% of GOP primary voters say they wouldn't vote for someone who supported a bill at the state level mandating that people have health insurance. Only 17% say they'd definitely be willing to vote for someone who did that and 22% are unsure. A lot of people have speculated that the Massachusetts health care bill will be a disqualifer for Romney with primary voters- I'm a little skeptical about that but these numbers certainly provide some evidence in that direction. The question is just whether any of the Republicans who run will be strong enough to make this lethal for Romney's candidacy or if the weakness of the field will allow him to win by default despite this significant liability.
One thing's for sure- Romney's already weak with the far right flank of the party. With voters describing themselves as 'very conservative' he polls at just 14%, putting him in fourth place. His favorability with those voters is only 50% compared to 83% for Sarah Palin, 64% for Mike Huckabee, and 61% for Gingrich. He's already lagging with those folks and the problem could intensify as the campaign heats up and Romneycare ends up even more in the spotlight.
One other note from our Republican primary poll- GOP voters think that the ACORN threat has gone down significantly. In November of 2009 we found 52% of Republicans thought ACORN had stolen the election for Barack Obama in 2008. Now only 25% think the organization will steal the election for him again next year, while 43% think it will not and 32% aren't sure yet.
Now 25% may seem like a high percentage to think that an organization no longer in existence will manage to steal a Presidential election but it's less than half the number who thought that two years ago.
Among Republicans who think ACORN will steal the election their top choice for the nomination is Palin at 20%, followed by Gingrich at 19%, and Huckabee and Romney at 16%.
Full results here