- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2012

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Republican primary voters think Rick Santorum is the most generous of heart and say Mitt Romney is the man they would trust to manage their financial portfolios, but it’s Newt Gingrich whom they want to see do the hustle on TV.

In a series of questions in the latest Washington Times/JZ Analytics poll, Republican primary voters nationwide were most intrigued by Mr. Gingrich, saying he is the one they most want to see appear on “Dancing With the Stars,” and that he is the one who most reminds them of a favorite relative.

But he also most reminds them of a bad teacher.

“This is a guy who rings bells and whistles,” said John Zogby, the pollster who conducted the survey. “Much more than Romney does. Romney is seen as cool, competent, managerial. But who’s the guy who kicks up dust? It’s going to be Gingrich and Paul, but mainly Gingrich.”

Supporting that cool, managerial persona, Mr. Romney was the clear choice of voters asked whom they would most like to manage their financial portfolios for them, at 38 percent, more than double that of second-place Mr. Gingrich.

While that image is in line with the economic maestro persona Mr. Romney has tried to project during this campaign, Mr. Zogby said that could backfire.

He recalled another former Massachusetts governor, Michael Dukakis, who was supposed to bring his own cool management of the “Massachusetts Miracle” to the 1988 presidential campaign.

“We saw that was pretty risky. It’s risky now too. It’s clearly a contrast with Obama, who is not seen as having strong managerial or leadership skills, however what will always be missing is Romney is not the guy you’d like to see dancing,” Mr. Zogby said. “Folks, when they elect a president, there’s a lot of heart and soul that goes into it, as well as brain.”

On those heart questions, Mr. Santorum and Mr. Gingrich sparred for primacy.

Mr. Santorum won most of the friendliness categories, including being selected as the kindest boss and the most likely to help someone who is stranded.

Mr. Gingrich, meanwhile, was rated most likely to remind voters of a favorite relative, but also reminded voters of their least-favorite teacher — not too much of a surprise given Mr. Gingrich was a college professor and still regularly delivers fact-filled history lessons during his speeches to conservative gatherings.

Mr. Romney, Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Santorum were all neck-and-neck when voters were asked whom they would most like to sit next to at the Super Bowl.

The softer questions are not inconsequential to elections, according to political analysts who say voters often look for candidates who they feel are like them or understand their issues.

Trying to capitalize on that feeling, CafeMom.com, a website catering to mothers, has held chats with Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Santorum and Texas Gov. Rick Perry during the campaign season.

Mr. Gingrich even began to weep when asked to recall his late mother during his chat in Iowa, while the others fielded questions such as how often they have fights with their spouses, and who apologizes first when they do.

Analysts have long speculated about the mythical beer primary — a belief that voters tend to give the benefit of the doubt to candidates with whom they would most like to share a beer.

On a more serious note, Mr. Gingrich came in second when voters were asked who the one candidate is they could never vote for. Rep. Ron Paul was first in that category, with nearly 30 percent of voters saying they couldn’t stomach him.

And then there’s the “Dancing With the Stars” issue.

It’s not far-fetched to imagine an invite could be in the mail. HollywoodLife.com said in December that the show is looking to add more politics to its lineup, and was considering asking candidates who dropped out of the race to join the show.

Mr. Gingrich’s lieutenant during the Republican ascendance in the 1990s, then-Rep. Tom DeLay, took a turn on the show in 2009.

That was followed in 2010 with an appearance by Bristol Palin, the daughter of former Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin.