Based on recent polling, if Mitt Romney wins the Republican primary, President Obama should have a tough fight for election. If on the other hand Newt Gingrich manages to secure the nomination, Obama will have a radically easier time of getting re-elected. In a general election Gingrich is simply not electable according to both Gallup’s polling of swing states and most other major pollsters. From a Gallup poll of 12 key swing states:

If Barack Obama were the Democratic Party's candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney/former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich/Texas Congressman Ron Paul/former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum were the Republican Party's candidate, who would you vote for? January 2012 results

No only does Gingrich do dramatically worse than Romney in a general election match up, but Gingrich even does significantly worse than Ron Paul or Rick Santorum.

The fact that Gingrich with his history and baggage would be a political liability to the Republican party shouldn’t be news, but apparently it is to parts of the Republican base. In South Carolina exit polls Gingrich overwhelming won among voters who said electability was their top priority.

Being able to unseat Obama is very important to Republican primary voters, and according to current polls, Romney stands the best chance of doing that. Clearly the Romney campaign failed to do a good job of communicating this basic fact to voters ahead of the South Carolina primary, and it hurt him.

It does appear though that the Romney campaign has very successfully won the electability argument in Florida, and that is probably at least partly responsible for him doing so well there. PPP’s latest poll of Florida found 49 percent of likely primary voters think Romney stands the best chance of beating Obama even though the poll found only 39 percent of voters plan to vote Romney.