Monday, October 19, 2009

New (Well, Old) Rasmussen 2012 GOP Primary Poll: Huckabee's Tops

[Click to Enlarge]

Huckabee: 29%
Romney: 24%
Palin: 18%
Gingrich: 14%
Pawlenty: 4%

Polling Firm: Rasmussen
Margin of Error: +/- 4%
Sample: 750 likely GOP primary voters (nationally)
Conducted: October 15, 2009

Last Friday, Rasmussen released a look at the (very early -- Had to say it.) 2012 Republican presidential nomination race. This is the first such poll in nearly two months -- the head-to-head trial heat polls against President Obama are done more frequently -- but it seems to be showing the same picture with, perhaps, a slightly different spin. First of all, Mike Huckabee has traded positions with Mitt Romney, taking over the top spot for the first time since a July ABC/Washington Post poll had the former Arkansas governor in the lead. Still, we're operating with the same working group of contenders intact.

Or are we?

Though we've had but two polls (this Rasmussen one included) since August showing a widening gap between Sarah Palin and the top threesome, I'm on the verge of saying that there are two lead groups: the Huckabee/Romney group and the Palin/Gingrich group. The former has been consistently in the 20-30% range throughout the polling conducted since the presidential election a year ago. The latter group has been fairly consistently within the low 20% range and lower. Is the former Alaska governor settling into a position in the upper teens now? Only additional polling will tell us that for sure, but I think it is on the table now for consideration. Last week's Gallup numbers on Palin seem to echo this. Granted, that is a national poll of her approval and not a poll of likely Republican primary voters for 2012. Still, Palin has been in a better position overall prior to now.

Is it all bad for the former vice presidential nominee? Well, yeah it is, because she is also getting beaten handily in head-to-head Republican primary match ups against both Huckabee and Romney as well. Here are those numbers (also from the same Rasmussen poll) as well as the Romney/Huckabee trial heat:

Romney: 52%
Palin: 37%
undecided: 11%

Huckabee: 55%
Palin: 35%
undecided: 10%

Romney: 39%
Huckabee: 44%
undecided: 17%

Polling Firm: Rasmussen
Margin of Error: +/- 4%
Sample: 750 likely Republican primary voters
Conducted: October 15, 2009

A couple of notes about these, to me, somewhat strange polls. [The numbers are fine. They make sense, but I'm still trying to figure out why these particular match ups were polled. It just seems strange. But I think FHQ was the one that said it liked the information. Can't have it both ways, FHQ.] First, when Palin isn't among the list of candidates the undecided group shoots up to the high teens from the low double digits. Is that indicative of folks voting for someone other than Palin or just a signal that people are moving toward her? Sure, the temptation is to say that it is probably some of both, but look closely. Romney and Huckabee's numbers stay steady against Palin, but drop in her absence. Is that overwhelming proof that respondents are taking an "anybody but Palin" approach? No, it isn't, but there is some of that in there.

The second caveat contradicts that point, though. If we look at the figure Rasmussen loves to track on a daily basis in his Twitter account and apply it to Palin (and the other Republicans) instead of President Obama, we see that more people strongly favorable of Palin compared to those very unfavorable of her. Now, Obama has been stuck at around -10 in this (approval) rating for a long while, but Palin and the Republicans are a different story (and should be among an entirely Republican sample). The bottom line, though is that Palin is +31 by that metric (strongly favorable - strongly unfavorable). That bests Romney (+30) but pales in comparison to Huckabee's +43 rating. Of course, that there is such a difference between Romney and Huckabee on this measure (while Romney and Palin are close) yet Romney and Huckabee have similar positions relative to Palin likely says that there is some choose "anybody but Palin" activity in this sample.

Now let's see if Rasmussen releases any trial heats against Obama in the next couple of days. Public Policy Polling is set to release their numbers on that front on Thursday.

Recent Posts:
The Week Ahead

State of the Race: New Jersey Governor (10/16/09)

State of the Race: New Jersey Governor (10/15/09)


Robert said...

Some gut observations on the 2012 candidates.

Palin does best when she is criticized. She can only generate popularity if she makes a wild statement that is then scoffed at. When she is ignored she maintains her normal level of support.

Romney's numbers increase when his pictures are in the news with the audio off. His face looks Presidential but his mouth betrays him every time. His remarks on Iran don't seem to make much sense right now -- right issue, wrong stance.

Huckabee seems to be able to throw raw meat to his base but only shows up on the screen when he is conciliatory or makes a real gaffe.
If he can keep from making gaffes, he'll continue to do well.

Gingrich is happy with his current situation. He makes enough statements to keep his face in front of the screen so we won't forget him, but his effort is directed behind the scenes. It's Nixon, 1968, all over again.

Pawlenty is the one to watch. He is the only one that is attacking Obama with substance and passion. If he can continue on his current path, I expect that he will start to pick up votes from the other four, particularly Romney and maybe Huckabee.

Josh Putnam said...

These observations all seem right to me. I'd add to Pawlenty the fact that he has to speak out as a means of both differentiating himself from the pack and in his effort to play catch up with them.

We'll have to see how he does in the PPP polls later in the week. Is the bar low? Matching or barely exceeding Palin. Or does he need to do better than that?