Focus group shows Republican voters have major problems with Romney, Gingrich
December 2nd, 2011
08:49 PM ET
11 years ago

Focus group shows Republican voters have major problems with Romney, Gingrich

Washington (CNN) - Republicans may be enthusiastic about beating President Barack Obama, but a GOP focus group shows they are less enthusiastic about the candidates they're fielding against him.

A focus group of 12 GOP primary voters conducted in northern Virginia–a battleground state–showed that GOP voters have not warmed up to Mitt Romney, are worried about Newt Gingrich's volatility, and have all but dismissed the candidacy of Herman Cain. What's more, they see their two frontrunners as suffering from the same potentially deadly problem: a penchant to flip flop.

While Romney has arguably been running for years, these Republican primary voters seemed to have more respect than affection for him. When Democratic pollster Peter Hart–who conducted this group for the nonpartisan Annenberg Center–asked them which member of their family Romney might be, the answers showed a distance with the candidate: cousin, second cousin, distant cousin or uncle.

"I see him as a dad that is never home," one participant said.

Even worse, said another: "He's richer than the rest of us. He wouldn't come to our events."

While these voters admired Romney's business acumen, they were critical of what they see as a candidate who changes his views on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage–and jeopardizes his credibility as a result. Some described him as a "problem solver," who has "good experience." Yet others saw a politician who is "wishy-washy," and "manufactured."

Romney may be charging Gingrich with being a "career politician," but some of these GOP voters saw Romney in that very same light.

"Republican in name only. If push came to shove he'd give up a founding principle of the Republican Party," said Benjamin Jones, a financial planner.

"He is just wishy-washy," added Chuck Teets, a realtor. "He says what you want to hear."

The good news for Romney is that Gingrich has received the same criticism for flipping on issues like global warming, health care and Libya policy–and that did not escape some in the group. The real worry was that someone who does not stick with his views would be less able to convincingly take on Obama.

“I think when you enter a race this important you have to know from the get-go what your stand is, and stick with it," said Christine Bartlett, a small businesswoman, talking about Gingrich.

So was Michael Mahoney, a business consultant: "I think you need to take a stand. I can see maybe changing your opinion on maybe one issue, but these are multiple issues and I think that raises a red flag."

Even so, Gingrich received praise as "the best politician of the group." Yet his personal history–and his personality–were cause for concern. Some called him "experienced" and "smart," but they also viewed him as "careless and combustible."

Although he has a cranky reputation, Gingrich has lately worked to soften his image–and that may be paying off. Within the focus group, he seemed to be more warmly received than Romney. What relative did they compare Gingrich with? The answers: father, grandfather, a favorite uncle.

But several of the attendees said Gingrich's past - either his three marriages and/or his extramarital affair - caused them some concern.

"It is not a deal breaker, minor concern. It just goes to show his character," Mahoney said.

"I don't care how many marriages he has had. It is the affair that bothers me," said Sue Graham, a retail merchandiser.

One surprise: Many of the attendees voiced support for the position outlined by Gingrich to move some of the 11 million illegal immigrants currently into the country towards legalization because it is impractical to think they will all be deported.

"With the people already here they should be looked at individually. There are some here who are trying to live an American life so on the individual basis if they are working and they have families why would we want to tear apart a family," said Tina Cassasosa, a bookkeeper.

"Our economy couldn't survive exporting all of them. So we need to find a way to legalize the ones that are here," Deborah Secrist, an administrative assistant, said.

As for Cain, he was regarded as essentially a has-been. While he received some praise for his experience as a businessman and being a non-politician, a majority of those in the group thought he should end his candidacy. And they made that very clear, calling him "finished," someone with "no chance."

While the first voting in the nomination contest is just a month away with the Iowa caucuses, half of the attendees said they would love to see somebody else join the race.

"I just have a feeling…" said Sue Graham, a retail merchandiser. "…that we have a group of people here that may not be able to win this election."

Also see:

Romney campaign works on anti-Gingrich strategy

Romney meets former President George H. W. Bush

Newt believes in Newt

On Leno's show, Perry laughs off recent gaffes

Filed under: 2012 • Herman Cain • Mitt Romney • Newt Gingrich • Virginia
soundoff (240 Responses)
  1. MikeH

    Well duh. Newturd is a pathologically lying, highly immoral sociopath.

    Romney is a... er... just what is Romney this week anyway?

    December 2, 2011 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  2. JustMe

    Huntsman! These people need to look at and seriously research Huntsman! He is far and away the best the GOP has to offer and the truly the best chance the GOP has of beating Obama because he has crossover appeal because he has always been willing to work with those on the other side of the aisle and whether the GOP likes it or not working with those across the aisle is the only way we will ever get anything accomplished!

    December 3, 2011 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  3. Dee

    They should be worried about both Candidates Newt is a lightning rod with a whole lot of baggage. His wife would be the First Lady that wrecked his home life what example does she set.

    Romney is just a flip-flopper I would love to see him in a debate with President Obama . He got very frustrated on Fox News the other night.

    December 3, 2011 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  4. adam

    Rip Bill McKinney a man that we actually cared about. I would like to see Romney sequel like a p ig, after all the american people have been continuously rode and made to sequel by the republicans for many years!

    December 3, 2011 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  5. Chris

    Uh, YOU THINK??? They're both flip-floppers who will do and say whatever to get elected... there's only 1 candidate running who hasn't sold out, and has been consistent in his views, and that is Ron Paul. Some people don't like to hear that, but it's true. He's also the ONLY candidate seriously talking about dealing with our national debt (which is a bigger threat to our national security than anything else), and the only one with the courage to propose REAL cuts, as opposed to "cuts" in NEW proposed SPENDING.

    December 3, 2011 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  6. Don

    But not anywhere near the problem we have with the current socialist and chiel. So don't worry, we'll deal with it and vote Obummer out because we realize our Country can't withstand 4 more years of this misery.

    December 3, 2011 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  7. A disgusted former Republican

    Romney will flip his position if he thinks it will do him some good politically. Like Barney Franks said, to get Gingrich to flip, it takes some serious money. Which do you think is worse? Gingrich is morally bankrupt and evil so he is the worse of the two.

    December 3, 2011 01:37 am at 1:37 am |
  8. Thomas

    Thank God there are some Republicans who have an open mind and vision, in regards to the requirements to be commander and chief !

    Both Mitt & Newt are not worthy of being our leader. they both need to be enrolled at the Eisenhower Day Care Center and learn how to share there toys !

    December 3, 2011 02:09 am at 2:09 am |
  9. Donkey Party

    See, GOP-baggers can finally agree on something with Democrats. We have major problems with Romney and Gingrich too.

    December 3, 2011 02:47 am at 2:47 am |
  10. T'sah from Virginia

    Okay – here’s what’s going on… From DAY 1, the Republicans knew they could NOT beat President Obama. So, instead of just “giving up,” they decided to put all of the riff/raff out there because it’s better to have a LOSER going up against President Obama then a “winner” losing. This way, they can blame the LOSER!!!

    Now, the race becomes NASTY with “arrogance” – slap tactics – hate-bashing and flip-flopping. All of a sudden it is realized the Republicans have NOTHING ON THE RIGHT! A “crazed” effort is made to drag “every” Republican in capable of winning – including the one standing by the kitchen sink – in order to try and SAVE the party. Ah, let’s see --- Christie – Daniels – Rubio – Thune – McDonnell – and believe it or not – even PerryWinkle, yes PerryWinkle and much, much more.

    The ONLY candidate on the RIGHT that “seriously believes” he can Beat President Obama is MITTens; he REALY BELIEVES it and didn’t get the memo. The others got the memo, $bought$ by the Koch/Others. Their goal is to “destroy” President Obama – “try” to make him a one-term President – and “collectively,” they will sing the same song and talking point along with the “do-nothing” Congress.

    It’s backfiring… so, so sad!! Actually, glad, glad glad!!

    Obama 2012

    December 3, 2011 02:48 am at 2:48 am |
  11. 4merRepubCT

    Some of these participants agree that illegal immigrants need to be considered on an individual basis to determine whether or not they should be fast-tracked to citizenship. How will the government do that when it is being gutted by this very same group?

    December 3, 2011 05:19 am at 5:19 am |
  12. AlaskaPalin

    Carters problem, IRAN, has become obamas problem. If obama is seen to be weak on iran as carter was seen as back then, all his foreign policy successes will not save his presidency against a decisive gop presidential hawk on iran.

    December 3, 2011 05:52 am at 5:52 am |
  13. Booo

    12 people from a state with a population over 8 million? Not very scientific, although I understand that focus groups are supposed to be small. Still, I'm tired of a few speaking for many in these articles as far as these groups and polls are concerned.

    December 3, 2011 05:55 am at 5:55 am |
  14. Indy

    Romney and Gingrich will sell out to the corporate elite and throw the middle class under the bus just like my rich Uncles that were left a ton of money and have never worked a physical job in their lives, and dont know what it is like to live a middle class life.

    December 3, 2011 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  15. truepatriot

    There is a reason Ron Paul supporters are so solidly behind their candidate
    .Learn about Ron Paul.

    December 3, 2011 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  16. GI Joe

    So, twelve people out of 300 million is supposed to influence how the rest of us think? Not me. These two men are good for nothing but padding their wallets for THEIR own good.

    December 3, 2011 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  17. GBM

    Surprise, surprise.

    December 3, 2011 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  18. willie floyd

    What is necessary to get a comment posted??? Have made several continuing to show "awaiting moderation". Never use profanity or vulgarity-not much reason to continue reading or watching CNN. Guess MSNBC will become my only choice for unbiased reporting!!

    December 3, 2011 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  19. Ron

    Yeah. You know what the problem is: most republicans are Christians and have a sense of right of wrong! The entire republican field of candidates is wrong for Christian values. Period. They know it, and they know that the president may be a liberal, but he's trying to do the things that need to be done to recover and NOT throw Americans out with the bath water. Republicans know that what they are seeing Republican govenors and congressmen/women do is wrong at its core. "Whatsoever you do unto the least..."

    December 3, 2011 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  20. qwerty

    I will only vote for Ron Paul even if it is a write in and does not really count!!! The rest are a circus act.

    December 3, 2011 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  21. Marie MD

    Major problems??? The teapublikans allowed fat boy limbaugh, crazy beck, the bimbo from AK, coulter (who I still think is a man – adam apple on a woman?) and the insanity crowd as faux news (we make it up) take over and they are running the show from behind a microphone.
    From the meeting with the flake with those college students I am happy to see that our future generations are not fooled by their lies and they have a better hold of what these tea baggers stand for which is not for anyone but the 1%.

    December 3, 2011 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  22. Sorensen

    Of course the poor old GOP have problems with those two guys. Gingrich is a total disaster, a mentally handicapped
    adulterer with a misplaced Napoleon complex and totally unelectable. Romney is basically a decent person but also
    totally handicapped by his democratic flips followed by his republican flops. He is probably a democrat at heart but his
    blind ambition and his Bain management consulting background made him choose the republicans.
    They are both totally transparent to any half intelligent member of the electorate.
    How about Huntsman? He is at least intelligent and totally honest. Although that is not necessarily a prerequisite for
    succes in the GOP.

    December 3, 2011 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  23. Four And More

    Romney is indeed a manufactured (i.e. unauthentic) politician who changes his positions every which way the wind blows. Mitt refuses to take a stand on any principle without flopping it later, while somehow charging another as a career politician. Hypocrisy at its worst.
    No thanks.

    December 3, 2011 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  24. kathic

    Another article from the media that tells people who their frontrunners should be.

    December 3, 2011 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  25. petemg

    I am so sick of hearing about how Gingrich runs his mouth off without thinking. In his mind he is already president. Just because he was in office in Congress and such does not mean he automatically qualifies.

    December 3, 2011 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
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