(NOTE: I misread the poll results. The poll is among ALL voters. I’ll strike what isn’t relevant anymore, but most of my comments weren’t about the Republican nature of this poll anyway. Sorry for the confusion and thanks to Simon for pointing this out.)
This was a bit of a surprise, especially considering that only Republican voters were polled, but it shows who’s leading the pack in a couple years.
Basically, Huckabee is in a surprisingly good position, but Romney, Palin and Gingrich all have double digit deficits.
Huckabee fares the best of the top Republican contenders at this point in time, trailing Obama 49-42. That margin is basically the same as what Obama won by against John McCain in November. Huckabee also has the best favorability numbers of the Republican quartet at 42/34. Even after running for President last year a quarter of the country doesn’t have an opinion about him one way or the other.
Sarah Palin’s numbers are an interesting conundrum. She easily has the best favorability among Republicans voters, with 76% saying they have a positive opinion of her. The other three range from 60-67 with the party base. But she also has the largest percentage of GOP voters- 21%- who say they would vote for Obama if she ended up being the party nominee. So for the folks in the party who don’t like her that feeling is strong enough they’d rather vote for a Democrat. It adds up to a 12 point deficit for her, 53-41. Overall the electorate has a negative opinion of Palin, 42/49.
The low 60% favorability rating among GOP voters belongs to Mitt Romney, certainly an indication that securing the nomination is likely to once again be a struggle for him. He is viewed favorably by the largest numbers of Democrats for any of the Republican candidates in the survey, at 27%. He trails Obama 50-39.
All the normal caveats apply here that it’s too early, etc., but if Obama is under 50% and Huckabee is only 7% behind, well, the GOP will take note of that. But if Huckabee genuinely gets the nod as the candidate, I think it would tear the GOP in two for the foreseeable future since it would seem like the religious right’s candidate.