Is Palin in? Is she out?
That's been what everyone has been trying to hash out over these last few days since the former VP nominee's resignation announcement Friday. Regardless of the answer, though, Palin remains among the top tier of candidates in Rasmussen's first poll of the 2012 Republican presidential primary race (a poll conducted after the announcement). The soon to be former Alaska governor continues to poll nearly evenly with both Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee and as a trio they consistently run about ten points ahead of former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich and well ahead of the other potential challengers.
Between the two early CNN polls on the race (here and here) and the newly released Rasmussen poll, there is a fairly clear picture of where things stand. There is a top tier of candidates that has been solidified -- whether they enter or not -- and an as of yet undetermined group of secondary candidates. And those options haven't significantly changed since last November's election. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee had their hats thrown in the race by virtue of their showings in the 2008 Republican primaries. Similarly, Sarah Palin being tapped as the 2008 presidential ticket number two and Gingrich's continued outspoken manner kept the two of them toward the front of the 2012 presidential queue.
Those four options have been there, but the darkhorse options behind them have emerged and faded very quickly for still being three years away from the next round of primaries and caucuses. By this point, it is a bit redundant to recount the stories of Jon Huntsman, John Ensign or Mark Sanford, but it is the candidates of that ilk who will likely fill out the primary field in just two short years. This time around, Tim Pawlenty and Haley Barbour are the secondary candidates included in the poll. And as has been the case in the CNN polls (with Bobby Jindal and Jeb Bush ), the candidates outside of the foursome mentioned above lag well behind. However, among likely Republican primary voters, it is this group of candidates that still has the most to gain. Opinion has largely solidified around Palin, Romney, Huckabee and Gingrich and it is overwhelmingly positive (favorability to unfavorability ratio) as one might expect for well-known, prospective candidates among Republican voters.
And while the "not sures" are well into the single digits for that quartet in the Rasmussen poll, over a quarter of respondents are still unsure about both Pawlenty and Barbour. In other words, there is still a significant faction of likely Republican primary voters who have yet to fully weigh in on those secondary candidates. And there is still plenty of time for each to grow his or her support, but the second tier candidates have the most wiggle room and can yet make it up to the top tier.
Time will tell...
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