A new CNN/Opinion Research poll released today finds that among Republicans thinking about the 2012 election Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Mitt Romney are the clear favorites. More interesting is the fact that there seems to be a Hillary effect in action when it comes to Palin and Republican women. Could Palin 2012 suffer the same fate as Clinton 2008?
The poll numbers break down as 29% for Palin, 26% for Huckabee, 21% for Romney, and 9% for Bobby Jindal. This poll was taken before Jindal laid his bomb heard around the world after Obama’s speech Tuesday night, so his slight support isn’t a reflection of his performance this week.
What is interesting is the impact of what I have dubbed the Hillary Effect, which is the mobilization of women, especially older women, who might not have normally been active in the primary. Older women were the bedrock of Hillary Clinton’s base of primary support. In many cases these women hadn’t been motivated by either Gore or Kerry. The early evidence from the CNN poll is that this same thing could happen to the GOP in 2012.
Palin, Huckabee, and Romney poll about evenly with men. The difference between them is that Palin has a 10 and 12 point lead over Huckabee and Romney respectively with Republican women. Republican women participated in the 2008 primary at about a 40% rate. It is likely that if Palin can keep her momentum, she will reenergize Republican women for the primary in the much the same way that Hillary Clinton did for Democratic women in 2008. The problem for Palin is that this alone probably won’t be enough to power her to the nomination, as women make up a smaller percentage of the GOP than they do in the Democratic Party.
Pallin’s path to the nomination would be a coalition of social conservatives, and women supporters. Palin is a big government Republican, like George W. Bush, so the fiscal conservatives are likely to support Romney. Huckabee’s base is with social conservatives, and that is what Palin would have to cut into. The other problem for the GOP is that in swing states like Colorado the power base is shifting. A post 2008 analysis done by the dear departed Rocky Mountain News found that the top voting bloc in the state has swung from Republican men to Democratic women.
Perhaps, no single group of voters despises Sarah Palin as much as Democratic women do. Palin like Hillary Clinton with voters in the other party as well as Independents. Palin may be able to motivate Republican women, but with such limited appeal, she would be looking at being routed by Barack Obama in the general election. The Republican, who could give Obama the most problems in 2012, if the economy doesn’t improve, is Mitt Romney. It might pain Hillary Clinton supporters to read this, but there as some definite parallels between Clinton 2008 and Palin 2012, which could lead them both to suffer the same fate.