A new Rasmussen Reports poll released this week revealed that members of the Republican Party have shifted a bit from their post-election Sarah Palin frenzy to a less controversial figure as their top choice for a possible presidential candidate in 2012 — former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee. Not far behind Mike Huckabee is former governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney. Sarah Palin is third and six points behind where she stood back in July, just a few days after she resigned as governor of Alaska. Another survey at the time indicated that 40% of Republican voters believed that Sarah Palin had hurt her chance to be elected president with her sudden resignation. The latest poll reflects that confidence in her seems to have slipped a bit further.
Rasmussen asked 750 Republicans likely to vote in 2012 who they would vote for if given a choice between Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, Some Other Candidate and Not Sure. Nearly a third of respondents said they would vote for Mike Huckabe (29%). A quarter of the voters said they would vote for Mitt Romney. Nearly a fifth said they would vote for Sarah Palin (18%). Fourteen percent said they would vote for former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Only 4% said they would vote for Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.
Rasmussen Reports also asked the opposite — of the candidates, who would they least like to see win the Republican Party nomination in 2012. Tim Pawlenty led the list at 28%. Sarah Palin wasn’t far behind at 21%. Gingrich stood at 20%. Only 9% said Romney, and only 8% said Mike Huckabee.
Back in July, Sarah Palin enjoyed 24% in a Rasmussen poll asking the same questions, meaning she lost 6 points in the intervening three months. Mike Huckabee at the time sat at 22%, which means he rose 7 points. Mitt Romney remained roughly in the same place (up 1% from 24 to 25).
But one must remain cautious when perusing polls when the 2012 presidential election is so distant. Many things can happen in the intervening months to lower or raise the likeability or perceived win-ability of a given candidate. So to count Sarah Palin out of the running would be a bit premature, although the falling numbers are not a good indication of her viability as a candidate.
All things considered, unless there is a dark horse candidate that appears sometime in the next couple years, the Republican primaries will be a slugfest between Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.