Romney, Huckabee Continue To Lead Early 2012 GOP Polling

Not surprisingly, the early polling of Republican candidates for 2012 continues to look like mostly a game of name recognition:

For the fourth month in a row PPP’s national look ahead to the 2012 Presidential contest finds Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee owning the top two spots, but Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich aren’t too far behind.

Romney has 25% to 22% for Huckabee, 19% for Palin, and 15% for Gingrich. Ron Paul finishes further back with 6%.

As has been the case on all of these polls Palin is the most popular Republican, with 67% viewing her favorably. That popularity so far has not extended to support for President though. 58% have a positive opinion of Gingrich, 57% of Romney, and 53% of Huckabee.

Ron Paul’s favorability with Republican primary voters, at 29/25, is actually worse than the 35/25 we found for him on our poll with independents. That’s just more evidence that he might be a bigger player in the 2012 contest if he decided to run as a third party candidate than he would be staying as a GOP also ran.

Romney’s lead is being fueled by a large advantage with senior citizens. Huckabee actually has the edge with voters under 65 but Romney’s 29-16 lead over him with seniors puts him in the top spot overall. Huckabee leads in the South and the Midwest, while Romney has the advantage in the West and the Northeast.

Of perhaps a little more immediate interest is a newly released poll from the Des Moines Register testing the prospective candidates’ levels of support in the state that will lead off the 2012 primary season:

Meet Iowa’s most popular 2012 GOP presidential prospects: Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich.

Others though, aren’t as popular.

That means if Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, South Dakota Sen. John Thune or others have eyes on Iowa’s leadoff caucuses, they have a lot of baby kissing and handshaking to do.

“The old adage is if a candidate hasn’t shaken an Iowan’s hand five times they won’t get their vote is mostly funny but it’s almost in part true,” said Bruce Gronbeck, a retired University of Iowa professor and author of “Presidential Campaigns and American Self Images. “It’s about that sheer amount of exposure.”

Here’s how the individual candidates panned out:

Mitt Romney
Former Massachusetts governor
Favorable rating: 62%
Unfavorable: 26%
Not sure: 12%

Sarah Palin
Former Alaska governor
Favorable rating: 58%
Unfavorable: 39%
Not sure: 3%

Newt Gingrich
Former speaker of the U.S. House
Favorable rating: 56%
Unfavorable: 33%
Not sure: 11%

Other candidates, like Daniels, Thune, and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty have an “unknonwn” number at 50% or higher.

At this point, I don’t think that there’s much value in these polls other than to indicate the relative level of support that the candidates have at a given time. After all, polls at this point in 2006 were showing that Rudy Giuliani was the prohibitive front runner from the Republican nomination. When people started paying attention to the race, candidates like Huckabee and Romney started to rise, and John McCain made yet another comeback. Giuliani, meanwhile, ended up spending $ 50 million to win a single delegate, the most expensive convention delegate in American political history.

I’m of the mind that the person who will end up being the GOP nominee in 2012 doesn’t come from the bloc of well-known or former candidates that we’re all familiar with, and wasn’t included in the Public Policy Polling poll noted above. There are a couple people who come to mind — Mitch Daniels, John Thune, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, and, as a dark horse, Chris Christie — but it could be someone who’s still off the radar. After the 2010 elections are finished, we’ll start seeing names being pushed forward. Then the 2012 games will really begin.

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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. Ugh says:

    It’s going to be Thune or Gingrich or Palin.

  2. democratsarefascists says:

    Rock star President vs. multiple loser?

    Why can’t we do better than this?
    Why do we end up with the same old names who already ran and lost, like McCain?
    At least if we ran Palin, we’d win or lose on the merits.
    Trotting Huckabee and Romney out again is asking for a loss.
    I guess I could settle for Gingrich, but I’d prefer someone fresher. It doesn’t have to be a complete unknown. Like I said, Palin would be fine by me. Thune’s a possibility. Just not insider names.

  3. An Interested Party says:

    The rock star would be truly blessed if he had either Gingrich or Palin as his opponent…

  4. superdestroyer says:

    Conservatives have to realize that one of the goals of the Bush Administration was to eliminate any talented Republicans so that members of the Bush Family could be elected in the future. The problem is that everyone has now realize how truly incompetent the members of the Bush Clan really are and how the Republicans are left with a collection of untalented, incompetent fools who have zero leadership ability.

    It looks like the Republicans would be better off saving the money and not running anyone against Obama instead of sending out someone like Palin who would probably lose in a fifty state rout.

  5. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***Republicans are left with a collection of untalented, incompetent fools who have zero leadership ability*** lol dude why, I would make a better president then Obama…..

    and that is the sad ******* truth….

  6. tfr says:

    If Tax Hike Mike and Romneycare are the only two choices, we’re in for 8 years of Mr. Peace Prize.

  7. Kris says:

    Sarah Palin, whether the “latest poll” shows it or not, is the top Republican contender for 2012. Barack Obama will lose to Hillary and REAL CHANGE AND REAL HOPE will start with the first all female bid for the presidency. It will be a fantastic fight and the country will be on the road to recovery and prosperity because women will finally be at the top. It will be a beautiful thing and I cannot wait. Mark my words. I support Sarah but would be just as pleased if Hillary were elected President. It is long past time for a woman to be President. There could not be two more qualified women for the job.