Last month*, Public Policy Polling [pdf] released the results of another round of 2012 presidential trial-heat surveys. As has been their custom in monthly installments over the last three months, PPP has attempted to gauge how four (of the most) likely Republicans (Gingrich, Huckabee, Palin and Romney) stack up against President Obama. [For a full look at the March (for a Palin-only version), April and May iterations, see here, here and here.] The most noticeable trend has been that Obama has been above the 50% mark and more than double digits up on each candidate in each month with but one exception. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee kept the president under 50% and came within seven points of Obama in his first appearance in the poll in April. And that was the only incidence in which those two indicators coincided until the June survey.
And it wasn't Huckabee who fared best.
Newt Gingrich pulled Obama below the majority line and simultaneously broke the 40% barrier himself for the first time in three tries. Still, the former speaker bests only Sarah Palin in terms of unfavorability in these polls.
On favorability, Mike Huckabee has been the most likable Republican of the four across these three polls, yet only marginally better than Mitt Romney. Both still maintain fairly high levels of undecideds. Huckabee, though narrowly missed out on keeping Obama under 50% (The president was right on that mark against Huckabee in June.) while pulling in the highest percentage against Obama of any of these four Republicans.
It seems silly at this point to dissect the Palin numbers post-July 3, but I'll give it a go. Even before the Alaska governor's surprise resignation announcement, she was performing the worst of the GOP quartet in these polls. More importantly for her, though, she continues to be among the best of the best in the 2012 Republican primary polling conducted thus far. And that performance expands past her announcement into the first Rasmussen poll of the race this past week. If electability was an issue in a tight primary race, though, it could hurt Palin. But in the position we're in the cycle, I don't think now's the time to be making that call. I'll plant the idea, though.
Finally, Mitt Romney fared much better in June than he had when he bottomed out in the May survey. While 40% isn't anything great for the "next in line" candidate, the former Massachusetts governor came within eight points of Obama; the lowest level the president has been at during the course of these several polls. Amid all the hoopla surrounding Mark Sanford, Sarah Palin and to a lesser extent, John Ensign, Romney's low-profile, picking his spots strategy seems shrewd for the moment. It is 2009 after all. Romney's position in this poll and consistently through the few primary polls (Oh, and I should mention the Pew findings concerning Romney's favorability ratings as well.) in conjunction with the calendar, as it currently exists but is likely to change, continues to be the best-positioned candidate for 2012. But Huckabee is at least on par with Romney on all of those counts with the exception of the calendar (especially if Palin enters too).
Here's an interesting note to end on: Is Huckabee, the 2012 version of John Edwards to Palin's Obama and Romney's Clinton? There are some interesting parallels there. Huckabee is a former Iowa caucus stand out, Palin is the upstart from the grassroots and Romney is the GOP establishment pick. If only there were proportional-only delegate allocation rules, lightning could maybe, just maybe, strike twice. I won't count those chickens, though. [I will also try to limit my cliche usage.]
*Ugh, that's hard to type, but in true Brady fashion, "something suddenly came up" each time I was set to bang out the post. Alas, I'll post these in the right hand side bar for permanent horse-race coverage. PPP should have another update out within the next week to ten days if the past four months release times are any indication.
A 2012 Minnesota Toss Up, Too?
A 2012 Texas Toss Up?
State of the Race: New Jersey (7/9/09)