Well, regardless of the fact the survivor of the process won’t know the final result for another 21 1/2 months, the polls have begun for the GOP nomination in 2012, with the winner most likely taking on President Obama that November.
Today Rasmussen released a poll which showed Mitt Romney has the early lead for the GOP nomination, with 24 percent replying they prefer Mitt at this nascent stage. Sarah Palin netted 19% while Mike Huckabee picked up 17 percent. The top contender who didn’t run in 2008, Newt Gingrich, had 11 percent while national newcomer Tim Pawlenty finished under the “undecided” (10%) with a 6% score. Ron Paul and Mitch Daniels rounded out the field.
One weakness in the Rasmussen Poll is that they somewhat arbitrarily picked the seven contenders, yet they point out that the leaders at this stage rarely end up with the nomination. As I recall, at this time four years ago we were supposed to have a rematch of the abortive 2000 New York Senate race between Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. Hillary was the last person standing between Barack Obama and the 2008 Democratic nomination, but Rudy was an early casualty in the GOP race.
This is notable about the methodology, though:
The survey of 1,000 Likely GOP Primary Voters was conducted on January 18, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. Likely GOP Primary Voters include both Republicans and unaffiliated voters likely to vote in a GOP Primary.
In other words, they rely on an open primary of sorts. More tellingly:
Romney, Palin and Huckabee are essentially in a three-way tie among voters who describe themselves as very conservative. Those who characterize themselves as somewhat conservative and moderate/liberal have a clear preference for Romney.
Yet Palin has the lead among TEA Partiers, and there’s no real way of knowing just how much influence they’ll have over the GOP nominating process in states with both open and closed primaries.
New Hampshire is a state with an open primary, and a straw poll was conducted there over the weekend – 273 Granite State Republicans scattered their votes among a total of 20 candidates. It’s not particularly surprising that Mitt Romney won, but 35 percent isn’t all that overwhelming considering he comes from a neighboring state and is a name well-known to “establishment” Republicans. Ron Paul was a distant second with 11 percent.
However, if you look at the candidates who could be considered the “darlings” of the TEA Party (Paul, Palin, Michele Bachmann, Jim DeMint, Herman Cain, Mike Pence, and Gary Johnson) you get just as much support as Romney drew – they add up to 37 percent. Once the TEA Party can coalesce around one or two candiates, the race will be joined.
It’s pretty amazing to think that only one of those mentioned (Herman Cain) has even taken the step to form an exploratory committee – the rest are still considering if and when to jump in. But surely over the next few months the final field will emerge, and it will be fun to see how the race shakes out.