A new Gallup Poll finds Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney still statistically tied among Republicans who were asked which prospective presidential candidate they believe should be the party's 2012 nominee. But there are some surprises in the numbers when they are broken down among subgroups of Republicans:
Huckabee performs best among core Republicans, as opposed to conservative-leaning independent voters. He also performs best among Southerners, regular churchgoers and "non-supporters" of the tea party.But another surprise or two are in store when the results are broken down by the issues that are most important to Republicans:
Surprisingly, Palin performs best among self-described "liberal or moderate" Republicans and those who "seldom" go to church. The poll also finds she has greater appeal to people who didn't graduate from college and with Republicans who make less than $90,000 a year. She ties with Romney on support from Republicans from the East Coast.
Meanwhile, Romney is most popular on the West Coast and leads Republicans who are 50 and over and wealthy. He has a significant lead when it comes to college graduates. He ties with Huckabee and bests Palin among GOPers who describe themselves as "tea party supporters."
Mitt Romney still does badly among those who social issues as the biggest issue in 2012, as does Newt Gingrich. Perhaps more surprising, Sarah Palin wins among those voters who see national security and foreign policy as the most important issue.
Interestingly, Gov. Palin ranked second on the economy and second on social issues, as well as first on security/foreign policy. Huckabee was preferred in two categories, rated second in another and third in the remaining one. Romney was first in one category, second in another and third in the remaining two. Gingrich finished third in one category and last in the other three. So when first and second place ratings are combined, Huckabee and Palin did well, Romney and Gingrich not so well. Such combinations become important when a candidate drops out and voters switch support to their second choices.
More good news for Gov. Palin: If she's doing this well this early with moderate GOPers, she won't have as much heavy lifting to do to improve her numbers among conservatives and tea partiers. We were told by the know-it-all punditocracy that the moderates would be hardest for her to bring over to her side. The media also mocked her foreign policy credentials, but she does better than her three most likely rivals among Republicans for whom it is their top issue. What Sarah Palin's team needs to do, if the results of this poll are to be taken seriously, is get the word out about her record as a fiscally responsible governor who cut her state's budgets and vetoed federal mandates with strings attached. The media has given short shrift to her fiscal accomplishments while governor of Alaska. This comes as no surprise, as even today, relatively few Americans are aware that National Journal magazine named Barack Obama and Joe Biden as two of the most liberal members of the U.S. Senate in 2007. The media didn't report that fact because it was in the sack with the Obama campaign to portray him as a centrist.
Which brings us to the grains of salt which should be taken with these poll results. Gallup sampled Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, not likely voters or even registered voters. Likely voters tend to be better informed on issues and candidates. Second grain of salt: Though the pundits are chomping at the bit for candidates to declare their intentions to run, it's still relatively early. Spring will be the season for that. And the final grain of salt: Recall the the polls of March, 2007, which assured us that Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton were certain to be the respective candidates of the two major political parties. Political perceptions can change, and rather quickly, too.