As we inch closer to the one year mark until the opening of the 2012 presidential campaign, the polls become a bit more meaningful, and for Sarah Palin the message isn’t a good one. Two new PPP surveys of Iowa and Nevada Republicans released today revealed that Mike Huckabee leads by double digits in Iowa, and Mitt Romney leads by double digits in Nevada. Sarah Palin trails by double digits in both states.
In the 2008 campaign, Mike Huckabee earned 35% of the delegates at the Iowa caucuses, and this momentum remains strong heading into 2012. According to the survey, Huckabee’s first choice support is at 30%. Mitt Romney has slipped in the state from 25% first choice support to 18%. Sarah Palin is in third at 15%, and Newt Gingrich is fourth at 13%. Huckabee was also the most popular second choice with voters (19%), followed by Palin (13%), Gingrich (12%), and Romney (9%).
Romney is struggling with the same conservative wing of the Republican Party that doubted him in 2008. Although they run almost even with Republican moderates, Huckabee has a 2-1 advantage over Romney with conservatives (30%-15%). Despite her posturing as an uber-conservative, Huckabee almost doubles Palin with conservatives (30%-17%). Right now, Iowa Republicans aren’t buying the idea that Sarah Palin represents their conservatism. . According to favorability ratings, Palin is the second most popular Republican in the field, behind Huckabee, but this popularity has not translated to equivalent political support.
For Palin, the story in Nevada is almost the same as it is in Iowa. Mitt Romney dominated the Nevada caucuses in 2008, and he looks ready to do so again in 2012. In Nevada, Romney leads Palin 31%-19%. Gingrich is third at 18%, and Huckabee is fourth at 14%. Palin runs almost even with Romney among moderates in the state, but conservatives favor Romney by a 2-1 margin over Palin (34%-17). Palin and Romney are tied for the highest favorability rating in the state (70%), but that personal popularity is not helping Palin gain support.
There are a few different things going on in these polls. First, it is clear that Palin’s lack of a political organization is hurting her. Romney and Huckabee kept their organizations alive after 2008, and their ability to quickly mobilize on the ground is paying off ahead of 2012. Palin doesn’t have an on the ground grassroots political operation. I think Palin is about to find out that a strong Twitter and Facebook presence is a poor substitute for boots on the ground door to door political campaigning.
Secondly although Republicans personally like Sarah Palin, they have reservations about her ability to be president. Palin is shaping up to be the candidate that Republicans like, but would never vote for. Doubts about Palin’s viability as a president manifest themselves in the lack of support she is drawing from the conservative wing of the Republican Party. It isn’t that Palin isn’t conservative enough, or doesn’t say the right things, but that they doubt that she is up to the job of being president.
Third, it is looking like Palin’s strategy of quitting her job as governor and using her media stardom to further her political career is backfiring. The problem with sending her daughter on Dancing With The Stars, and doing a reality show on TLC appears to have the unintended consequence of Republicans now taking Palin less seriously than they did before. Republicans don’t like quitters, and the image of Palin bailing out on the people of Alaska who elected her to lead them is going to haunt her forever. If Palin would have resigned as governor to study and prepare for 2012, her decision likely would have been supported within the party.
However Sarah Palin has revealed time and time again that is disinterested in doing any of the actual work that comes with running for president. She seems to be suffering from the delusion that running for president is the same as running for prom queen. She appears to believe that Republicans will vote for her because they like her, but evidence is mounting that it is going to take more than personality to win the nomination.
None of this means that Palin won’t run. The fact that she shouldn’t run doesn’t mean that she won’t. Everything from her contract with Fox News to not continuing her reality show suggests that Palin intends on being free of obligations in 2012 for a reason, and in all honesty, she would be crazy not to run in 2012.
Despite her struggles, she is still a top three candidate for the GOP nomination in a primary where there is no strong leader and the field is wide open. Even if she does no other work and strictly runs on personal popularity and name recognition with Republicans, she will be a serious contender. Her cult of personality, ego, and sense of presidential destiny, are why she is likely going to run. Palin thinks the presidential election was stolen from her in 2008, so polls and numbers don’t matter. She has conditioned herself to ignore them, but if she doesn’t change her game plan, Republican primary and caucus goers in 2012 may deliver her a message that even she can’t ignore.