A new Public Policy Polling survey of Republican primary voters released today revealed that not only is their no clear frontrunner for the GOP nomination in 2012, but there is also a four way tie between Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee with Ron Paul a distant fifth.
According to the PPP poll, Mike Huckabee leads Mitt Romney 23% to 22% with Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich tied at 21%. Since this is within the survey’s margin of error, the GOP primary race is a tie. Interestingly, Ron Paul’s support has continued to decline. He now sits at 4% in the poll. By more than a 2 to 1 margin (54%-24%) Republicans surveyed said that they were happy with their choices for potential 2012 candidates.
The real looming battle to decide the GOP nomination could end up being between personal popularity and field organization. Sarah Palin remains the most popular Republican with a 76% favorable rating, but Mitt Romney is already putting together what will likely be the best field organization among the Republican candidates. The problem for Romney is that he also had the second lowest favorable rating of any of the Republican contenders at 57%. Ron Paul was the lowest with a 36% rating. Mike Huckabee has a 65% favorable rating, and Newt Gingrich has a 62% favorable rating.
The early early of stages of this contest looked like it might have been a two candidate show, but Newt Gingrich’s injection into the race is costing Mitt Romney support. Romney has gone from polling a pre-Gingrich 30%-35% to his current level of 23%. This could be setting up a dual battle within the Republican field. Romney and Gingrich may have to duke it out for the support of the non-evangelical conservative, while Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee are already engaged in a turf war over evangelical values voters.
The reality for Republican voters is that their 2012 field does not contain a future star. The field consists of three 2008 losers, Romney, Huckabee, Palin, and a relic from the 1990s, in Newt Gingrich. While we may see a Pawlenty or Daniels enter the race, the money and support is heading to the known faces. Once the field of four shrinks to two, the choice for voters may be between their heads, Romney, or their hearts, Palin. Either way, both Romney and Palin possess serious weaknesses, and will face an uphill battle if they are to defeat the incumbency, and the fundraising juggernaut that is Barack Obama.