Judging from a series of wild swings in the polls, the 2012 GOP presidential primaries have become "the most volatile nomination race in history." This month, Rick Santorum became the 11th person to top a nationwide survey of Republicans' presidential preferences since campaigning began last year, following in the footsteps of Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and, yes, Donald Trump. Why can't GOP voters make up their minds?
They've got a weak frontrunner: "Romney leads the delegate hunt," says Thomas Beaumont for the Associated Press, and theoretically, at least, he's got "the money and the organization" to sew this up. But Santorum's recent three-state sweep was a fresh "reminder of Romney's failures to win over conservatives." That, coupled with numerous "self-inflicted" setbacks — "I like being able to fire people" — have made Romney an unusually feeble frontrunner. That makes for a "volatile — and long" — race.
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Republicans don't like any of their options: It's not just Romney, says Ewen MacAskill at Britain's Guardian. Republicans can't muster much love for any of their candidates. Outside his devoted following, "there are few who regard Ron Paul as a viable candidate." Gingrich has baggage aplenty. And while Santorum's "anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion, and anti-contraception" platform pleases social conservatives, many other Republicans have "deep reservations" about him. No wonder GOP voters are playing the field.
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Negative ads are bringing everybody down: Romney's "'scorched earth' attack ads" put an end to Gingrich's surge after his win in South Carolina, says Randy Evans at Newsmax. But they also created a negative atmosphere that doused enthusiasm for Romney, and for the race in general. As a result, turnout has been low and Romney has faced a backlash. In this toxic environment, don't be too surprised if the lead changes hands once again — and soon.
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