- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Remember all the pundits who warned that the poisonous Republican presidential primary battles threatened to divide the GOP and seriously weaken their nominee?

They were wrong.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who will be the party’s 2012 presidential standard-bearer, has escalating party support and has taken the lead in the head-to-head matchup polls against President Obama.

It didn’t make the network news shows Monday night, but the Gallup Poll officially began its daily tracking polls in the presidential race this week. Its survey of registered voters across the country showed Mr. Romney with a 5 percentage point lead over President Obama - 48 percent to 43 percent.

What is notable is that Mr. Romney led Mr. Obama among independent, swing voters - the politically unaffiliated people who most likely will decide this election - by 45 percent to 39 percent.

Equally revealing was Gallup’s finding that Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama “are supported by 90 percent of their respective partisans.” So much for a divided party.

One of the most remarkable attributes of the modern presidential primary system is that no matter how fiercely and bitterly the warring factions battle one another over the nomination, in the end, they usually put aside the political feuds of the past and rally around their presumptive nominee. That’s what is happening now.

Once former Sen. Rick Santorum dropped out of the race this month, Republicans were left with only one overriding focus: defeating Mr. Obama. He is the unbreakable glue that is uniting the GOP behind Mr. Romney’s candidacy.

This does not mean that Mr. Romney hasn’t a lot of work to do among Republicans who were not his supporters in the early primaries - especially women.

But a Washington Post/ABC News Poll showed Tuesday that Republicans were rallying behind Mr. Romney and that he was consolidating the GOP’s conservative base. This poll also found him “picking up significant support from GOP men.”

“Sixty-nine percent of Republicans - including 80 percent of conservative Republicans - now hold favorable views of the former governor,” the poll report said.

(Note: The Post/ABC survey is based on a sampling of “adults,” which is a much less accurate reading of election trends than the Gallup poll of registered voters or, best of all, likely voters.)

But Mr. Romney has his work cut out for him among female voters and Hispanics, among whom Mr. Obama has strong support. The Post survey reported that 58 percent of women hold favorable views of the president, while Mr. Romney is seen unfavorably by 52 percent of women.

Mr. Romney has stepped up his political appeals to female voters on economic issues, pointing out that no group has suffered more under the Obama economy than women, who have experienced severe job losses and brutal poverty rates.

Hispanics, the fastest-growing minority group in the United States, represent another hurdle for Mr. Romney, though there are indications that a large chunk of their vote is up for grabs on the issues of jobs and immigration.

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