Romney, Huckabee, Palin Lead GOP Field For 2012

Despite votes in the 2010 contest still being counted, polls for 2012 are already pouring out. They're largely meaningless.

It didn’t take long for Scott Rasmussen to come out with the first post-midterm poll of 2012 candidates:

OK, the election’s over, and the message from most voters was that they didn’t care much for President Obama’s agenda. Now the focus is on the race for the presidency in 2012.

On the Republican side, it’s a dead heat between the ex-governors – Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Sarah Palin of Alaska, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely GOP Primary voters.

Asked who they would vote for if the Republican presidential primary were held today, 20% say Romney, 19% Huckabee and another 19% Palin.


Rounding out the list of seven candidates chosen by Rasmussen Reports for the question, with their levels of support, are former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (13%), Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (6%), Texas Congressman Ron Paul (5%) and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (3%). Seven percent (7%) prefer some other candidate, and eight percent (8%) are undecided.

At this point, of course, these polls are little more than a popularity and name recognition contest, and Palin, Romney, and Huckabee have been leading the field in these polls for months now. Considering the fact that four years ago Rudy Giuliani was leading in these same types of polls for the 2008 nomination, they can’t really be said to be a great predictor of how the nomination fight, which hasn’t even started yet, will turn out. Moreover, even in the heat of the battle, it isn’t the national polls that matter, but the state polls in places like Iowa and New Hampshire. Give this six months or so, and we’ll start seeing numbers that really matter.

UPDATE (James Joyner): Taegan Goddard summarizes a CNN survey of  Republicans in three early states:

Iowa: Romney 21%, Huckabee 21%, Palin 18%, Gingrich 7%

New Hampshire: Romney 39%, Gingrich 19%, Palin 18%, Huckabee 11%

South Carolina: Palin 25%, Huckabee 24%, Romney 21%, Gingrich 20%

I agree with Doug that these mostly measure name recognition and have little bearing on what will happen more than a year from now.  They give us some idea of where candidates are starting but that’s it.

My gut tells me that Romney is the frontrunner and Palin the strongest challenger.  I can’t imaging Huckabee beating Palin, although he has a track record of hanging around long after his defeat is inevitable and could serve as a spoiler.  Gingrich has way too much baggage.

My hope is that someone who didn’t run in 2012 — a governor like Gary Johnson, maybe — emerges.   But it’s going to be difficult because this race will get started quickly and the winner will need enough money to choke a horse.

I suppose there’s always Marco Rubio — he’ll be more experienced than Obama was in 2008 and he’s got a huge fan base and boatloads of charisma.   But I suspect he’ll wait a little longer.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, The Presidency, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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. jmundstuk says:

    No, no, no. Romney will never be nominated; he just won’t. I think Jeb Bush looks very good for 2012, as a candidate who could beat Obama, and that’s who GOPers will be looking for.

  2. Ian Leslie says:

    May I ask in what way will Marco Rubio be more qualified in 2012 than Obama was in 2008?

  3. TG Chicago says:

    Joyner said “My hope is that someone who didn’t run in 2012 — a governor like Gary Johnson, maybe — emerges.”

    I think you meant 2008 there. Oddly enough, Andrew Sullivan C&Ped your typo.

  4. TG Chicago says:

    Of those four candidates, I could see putting them on two axes: one axis is suit-and-tie conservative vs theocratic outsider, and the other is tea-party mad vs relatively moderate.

    Romney is suit-and-tie moderate
    Gingrich is suit-and-tie tea-partier
    Palin is theocratic tea-partier
    Huckabee is theocratic moderate

    I’d say it’s highly unlikely that these will end up being the top four candidates in 2012, though.

  5. wr says:

    The only thing better for the Dems than Palin running would be Jeb Bush. Generations will pass before that name loses its toxicity.

  6. Kylopod says:

    >I suppose there’s always Marco Rubio — he’ll be more experienced than Obama was in 2008

    By the end of 2008, Obama had served nearly four years in the Senate. By the end of 2012, Rubio will have served no more than two years in the Senate. Both served eight years in a state legislature before joining the Senate. Rubio’s only experience advantage over Obama is that he served as Speaker of the Florida House for two years. But that would seem to be outweighed by Obama’s greater experience at the national level. The state legislature is just not considered that important on a presidential candidate’s resume.

    In any case, it seems unlikely that Rubio would be able to pull off a presidential run in that short a time. Granted, Obama’s rise to the presidency may have seemed unlikely, but at least he already had two years in the Senate behind him before he launched his presidential campaign. Rubio, in contrast, would have to start his campaign around the time he first enters the Senate, which would take much time away from his new job, and he would enter the presidency without having previously held any substantial political office in which he wasn’t simultaneously running for president.

  7. Ian Leslie says:

    Kylopod is absolutely right. The other point is that the Republicans are likely looking for somebody with the credibility and competence to take on a president they will want to paint as out of his depth – and that means someone with a track record (and probably an executive/gubernatorial track record). There’s no way Rubio runs in 2012.