And though the favorable/unfavorable differential for Romney still trails both Palin and Huckabee among Republicans, the next-in-line guy for the GOP leads the pack in Gallup's look forward to the race for the Party of Lincoln's nomination. Here are the particulars:
And I'm assuming that the remaining 15% either did not have an opinion or named other candidates (who received 1% or less).
These results dovetail nicely with the similar Rasmussen results from last week. Romney leads but is clustered with Palin and Huckabee ahead of Newt Gingrich and well ahead of other prospective challengers with less name recognition (at this point). And though those top three have taken turns in the top spot, they have, as a group, consistently hovered above everyone else with only Gingrich coming close. Here's how the trend looks across the limited polling conducted thus far in 2009:
But polling isn't really the full story. It never is. The Cohen, et al. (2008) book I've referenced several times in this space would have us look at fundraising totals and endorsements as well. As we're still in 2009, information on the latter is going to be hard to come by, so let's focus on the fundraising aspect, but more generally the financial activity of the top three's political action committees. With disclosure reports due to the Federal Elections Commission recently, a host of up-to-date data have been made public. Just this morning Chris Cillizza at The Fix examined not only how much Romney's Free and Strong America PAC had raised during the first five months of the year (the most recently filed report for Romney only covers January-May 2009), but also to whom the PAC was contributing. Here's Cillizza:
"Romney Fundraising Soars: Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney proved he is light years in front of his 2012 rivals in the fundraising game by collecting more than $1.6 million through his Free and Strong America PAC in the first six months of 2009, and spreading donations out to a variety of candidates and causes in critical states. Romney donated the maximum $6,800 to New Jersey Republican gubernatorial nominee and made a series of $5,000 donations to Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling and Ken Cuccinelli who are running for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in Virginia this fall. Romney also directed contributions to key 2012 states; he donated $5,000 to South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint and used his affiliated state PAC to give $10,000 to the New Hampshire Republican Party and $1,000 to Jeb Bradley, a former congressman who won a New Hampshire state Senate special election earlier this year. A dozen Republican members of the House received $1,000 contributions from Free and Strong America including Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas). Romney ended June with $842,000 in the bank. The depth of Romney's fundraising coupled with the strategic smarts with which he doled the money out is evidence that he has never really stopped running for president following his primary loss to John McCain in 2008."The formula, then, is not unlike Barack Obama's following the 2004 elections: raise money for and get involved in high profile races and strategically contribute to candidates in crucial (presidential) electoral locations. As the numbers indicate, Mitt Romney has had more of an opportunity to do this than the other two candidates he has been lumped in with in the early going of the 2012 cycle. Romney's Free and Strong America PAC has pulled in $1.6 million to Palin's SarahPAC's $733,000 to Huckabee's Huck PAC's $0 (Follow the links to the PAC's pages at OpenSecrets or the FEC.). [Note that the scales on the vertical axis in the figures below are different. Romney's bars may come in under where Huckabee's and Palin's are, but there's a more than 3:1 difference in those scales.]
I actually saw Romney's financial numbers this morning before the Gallup poll and it got me thinking about the state of Huckabee's operation as well. Ed Kilgore, in tearing down what he called the Next-In-Line Myth, stated (I'm paraphrasing here) that if the measure of that status is the number of delegates won in a previous nomination cycle, then Huckabee has as much right to the next-in-line label as Romney. And that statement was in the back of my mind when I looked up Huckabee's (lack of a) haul during the first half of the year. What separates Romney from Huckabee and Palin is not polling (not at this point at least), but the money war and organization. In both regards, Romney has a pretty good head start over is competitors, making Cillizza's last statement above instructive.
The take home message here is that Romney is leading where it counts now -- fundraising -- and is angling for a solidification of the second part of the Cohen, et al. puzzle: endorsements. The former presidential candidate's ability to raise money allows him the relative luxury of contributing to the campaigns and PACs of leaders within the party and GOP candidates in close races for reelection. That sort of giving comes in handy when the invisible primary nears completion and endorsements are at a premium with Iowa and New Hampshire around the corner.
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