Mitt Romney At The Top Of The GOP Field

Despite the disdain for him on the the hard right, Mitt Romney is the man to beat right now in the race for the GOP nomination.

For all of the angst he engenders among the GOP’s conservative base over the Massachusetts health care plan, his stand on climate change, and his history of seeming to flip-flop on positions of concern to social conservatives, Mitt Romney is the man to beat in the Republican race for the White House. In a new Gallup poll, Romney shows the biggest increase in support of any candidate in the field despite the fire that has been aimed at him recently by conservative stalwarts like Rush Limbaugh:

Republicans’ support for Mitt Romney as their party’s 2012 presidential nominee has increased significantly to 24%, compared with 17% in late May. As a result, Romney has widened his advantage over Sarah Palin in the latest update on rank-and-file Republicans’ nomination preferences. …

Romney appears to have gotten a boost in recent weeks after the official announcement of his candidacy. Gallup’s prior update of May 20-24 came just after former co-leaders Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump announced they were not candidates for the nomination; that poll showed Romney and Palin in a virtual tie. Since then, Romney’s support has increased and Palin’s has been flat, leaving Romney with an eight-percentage-point advantage.

That is the largest numerical lead Gallup has measured for any candidate since it first began measuring nomination preferences in September. In that initial September poll, Romney held a seven-point advantage over the field of candidates. Romney or Huckabee held slim margins of no more than four points in subsequent polls.

Here are the numbers:

And, more interestingly perhaps, here are the numbers if Sarah Palin is excluded, in which case Romney starts looking like a near-prohibitive front runner:

The numbers are similar in a CNN/Opinion Research poll released this morning:

Hours before a major showdown in the battle for the GOP presidential nomination, a new national poll indicates that nearly one in four Republicans say they would most likely support Mitt Romney as their party’s nominee.

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, the former Massachusetts governor, who’s making his second bid for his party’s presidential nomination, grabbed the support of 24 percent of Republicans and independent voters who lean toward the GOP, with former Alaska governor Sarah Palin at 20 percent, ahead of the rest of the field.

Two declared candidates, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and radio talk show host Herman Cain and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are tied at 10 percent, with Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who’s making his third run for the White House, at seven percent.

According to the poll, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota is at four percent. Bachmann is one of the seven candidates taking part in the debate and she says she’ll make an announcement regarding her candidacy later this month in Iowa, the state that kicks off the presidential primary and caucus calendar.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is at three percent, with former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania at one percent. Also at one percent is former Utah Gov. and U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman. He is not taking part in the Monday night debate but tells CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley that he’ll announce his candidacy in the next week and a half.


With Giuliani not in the horserace, the poll indicates Romney edges up to 28 percent, with Palin at 23 percent, far ahead of the rest of the field. With Giuliani and Palin not in the horserace, Romney jumps to 35 percent, 19 points ahead of Gingrich.

With the CNN poll, I’d definitely consider the non-Giuliani numbers to be more valid, since it seems pretty clear that the former New York Mayor’s recent flirtation with the idea of running for President is really more of a vanity exercise than anything else. As for Romney, it seems pretty clear that two things are at work here. First of all, there’s the name recognition factor, which somewhat discounts the predictive value of the poll considering that voting doesn’t start in the race for another eight months. Second, though, is that this is clearly a reflection of the fact that, notwithstanding the impact that the Tea Party is having this time around, the GOP still tends to resort to supporting the candidate deemed to be next in line for the nomination. Last time that was John McCain, this time it’s Mitt Romney. The party’s “establishment” business base is Romney’s natural constituency, of course, but he also undoubtedly gains support from those who actually want to win in November 2012 since he is the only candidate currently showing a realistic shot of beating the President.

Perhaps the most surprising thing in these polls, though, is the failure of Tim Pawlenty to gain any ground at all despite having been on an aggressive media campaign, including introducing a far-reaching (albeit flawed) economic plan. He’s been eclipsed in the polls by Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann, both of whom are being much better received by social conservatives and the Tea Party. Unless Pawlenty can make a breakthrough soon, one wonders if his campaign can last until the Iowa Caucuses when he’s barely reaching 5% in the polls.

There will be a debate tonight in Manchester, New Hampshire including nearly all the candidates in these polls. Whether that causes anything to change, only time will tell.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. The second poll was apparently so shocking it gave Doug MPD, and both personalities wanted to comment on it. 😉

  2. Yea cut-and-paste error there apparently. Fixed

  3. Herb says:

    It’s starting to get weird that Sarah Palin is such a factor, considering that she’s not officially running yet and there’s some question about whether she even will. I don’t think it bodes well for the GOP field, even if Romney is the primary beneficiary.

  4. Hey Norm says:

    So what happens to Romney’s numbers if Palin gets in the race? Because I’m pretty sure God wants her to.

  5. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Not at all surprising.

    McCain was disdained by the hard right. He easily won the nomination. Dole was disdained by the hard right. He easily won the nomination. Both Bushes were disdained by various elements of the hard right. Hell, Gerald Ford was disdained by various factions and when push came to shove he easily won the nomination, over Ronald Reagan no less.

  6. PJ says:

    Are there any major republican/conservative blogs that are pro Romney?

  7. Neil Hudelson says:


    On the whole, this one seems to be more pro-Romney than any other candidate.

  8. Rob in CT says:

    Well, President Romney isn’t my preferred outcome, but he’d probably be mostly ok. He’s a flip-flopper, a robot, yeah yeah. He’s basically a technocrat. From what I can see from his actual track record in government, he’s not all that different than Obama.

    The other guys and gals scare me. Well, most of ’em. I have a soft spot for Gary Johnson. I find this views on economics/fiscal policy worrisome, but his views on the War on Drugs/civil liberties and Foreign Policy/War on Terror/miliary spending are pretty darned good, and would be an improvement over Obama… in theory. When you factor in Congress it gets grim. His right-wing economics would get lots of support, but his positions on the other stuff would probably be dead on arrival. Thus, the worst of both worlds, ick.

  9. mattb says:

    Related question: Is tonight’s debate being broadcast? And if so where?

  10. mattb says:

    Ok… answered my own question CNN is carrying it. And WMUR (,

  11. physics geek says:

    Mitt Romney is the man to beat in the Republican race for the White House.

    That’s because no actual votes have been cast in a primary or a caucus yet. When that happens, I do not expect Romney to emerge as the leader. I seem to remember that Giuliani was deemed the front runner going in to 2008. I don’t actually remember him winning the nomination.

    If you’re asking who I think will win, I’ll admit that I have no idea. I think that I’ll wait until the voting gets underway.

  12. mike farrell says:

    Because if doesn’t fit his narrative Mataconis conveniently forgot the Reuters poll which has Palin actually ahead of Romney-and the new CNN poll which has her at 20%-all polling done before the media fell flat on their faces with their ermails withc hunt and before she declares,should she,at which point her polling will go up further. Mataconis is keen ot show the Pollster graph (twice now) which has her on a decline (prior to the above events) which includes the ludicrous CBS poll.