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Posted at 9:45 AM ET, 01/20/2011

The peril of early presidential primary polls

By Jennifer Rubin

Chris Cillizza reports:

Former Govs. Mike Huckabee (Ark.), Sarah Palin (Alaska) and Mitt Romney (Mass.) make up the top tier of the 2012 Republican presidential field, according to a new poll from the Washington Post and ABC News.

The only problem: Two of them in all likelihood aren't running. Huckabee has a multi-million dollar media operation that he would have to give up. We have seen no sign -- no staff hiring, no sit-downs with reporters -- to suggest that he is running. To the contrary, his closest advisor just took a job on the Hill.

Similarly, Sarah Palin's chances of running were diminishing even before the Arizona shooting. She, even more than Huckabee, would have an enormous amount to lose. Her mega-empire would have to be put in deep freeze. More to the point, her star is fading as a presidential contender. Think about it: She has 100 percent name identification, she's the darling of the Tea Party and she only gets 19 percent of the vote among people who lean Republican in this early poll?

The other problem with early polls like this is that they reflect national, not early primary state, opinion. This one doesn't separate out registered or likely voters. How many of the respondents who self-identified as "leans Republican" are even primary voters? Moreover, these polls, even if conducted among likely primary voters, are almost exclusively a function of name identification. Ask Rudy Giuliani.

In short, readers, beware. It'll be months and months before we get a GOP primary poll that means anything.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 20, 2011; 9:45 AM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign  
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Ms. Rubin, the peril is that you take all of this pre-2012 GOP presidential contender business way too seriously.

It's a parlour game. Fun to indulge in. Heck, I've even played myself. But it's basically Entertainment Tonight for politics. It's not worth anywhere near the ink you give it. Let it rest until at least the summer.

Posted by: MsJS | January 20, 2011 10:23 AM | Report abuse

So, Ms. Rubin, to your mind being wealthy, having a successful career, near 100% name recognition, and frontrunner status in the polls is now an impediment to Mike Huckabee in presidential politics? Interesting, because in 2008 the mantra was just the opposite - he couldn't win because he had no money, no name recognition, and no ability to get his message out. But he shocked the world in Iowa and very nearly pulled off winning the nomination (had he not lost South Carolina by just 1%). What do you suppose he could do this time?

Posted by: bluestaterepublican | January 20, 2011 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Huckabee can't win the presidency, period. If you want to nominate a candidate that's not viable, why settle for Huckabee, go all the way to Palin.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 20, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I like Palin, but would prefer that she stay out of the race. I think she best serves the Republican Party (and conservatism) by being kingmaker. Once she endorses a nominee (Mike Pence??), that person will start getting a lot of support from the Palinites. That Tea Party support may well be enough to win that person the nomination.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | January 20, 2011 11:59 AM | Report abuse

In other breaking news: Preseason rankings in every sport on the face of the planet are not predictive of future outcomes. Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Goombay | January 20, 2011 12:28 PM | Report abuse


Pshaw. Just because its useless and premature - as Jen herself suggests - doesn't mean its not fun and shouldn't get an occasional hearing.


Personal wealth in no way translates to the resources, organization and discipline to run a campaign. Besides, if we have to have a big government lefty actively pursuing a (for the most part) accomadationist/declinist foreign policy we might as well not confuse the branding and keep the incumbent. Lets hope Huckabee stays out. He can't win either the primary or the presidency - in large part because he will find it impossible to generate enthusiasm among free market and foreign policy conservatives - and will be no more than a more or less entertaining diversion.

Posted by: cavalier4 | January 20, 2011 12:33 PM | Report abuse

They're both good people, but neither can be elected president. Republicans must unite behind a solid conservative candidate with broad appeal to independents. The key question should be, "Can this candidate carry Ohio?" If not, move on to someone else.

Posted by: eoniii | January 20, 2011 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Democrats for Sarah!

Posted by: underhill | January 20, 2011 1:36 PM | Report abuse

What's eye opening about this poll is that those who self identify as conservative or very conservative do not chose Palin as their first choice .
And it's Governor Christie who seems to have the "It " factor at the moment, not Palin .
Despite his protestations about not running.
It appears that the dynamics are still shifting on the Republican side , obviously trending away from Palin.
And realistically, once she quit as Governor, her political future as an elected candidate was pretty much over.
But, the shouting is still continuing.
The desire for someone new might be more of a factor than is presently realized.
This doesn't necessarily harm Romney, because he was never overexposed and terribly roughed up in the 2008 primaries.
I bet most Americans would describe him as a gentleman and an executive .
The country would benefit from a serious primary Republican season with serious representatives like Pence, Romney, Thune , Daniels and
even Christie engaging in debate and challenging each other and President Obama , in a positive way.
Huckabee doesn't seem to have the fire in his belly this time and being a commentator who discusses turkey fryers, as he did just before Thanksgiving ,
while entertaining ,
just seems like it would be a hindrance in the gravitas department.

Posted by: CaptainKarl | January 20, 2011 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I have a counter with respect to Huckabee and Palin. Namely, Pat Buchanan. His presidential runs, if anything, enhanced his stature as a personality and enabled him to make MORE money. Sure, there would be a hit in income, but there's plenty of chances to make it on the flip side.

Huckabee - probably not
Palin - 50/50. Particularly if she feels agrieved.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | January 20, 2011 4:43 PM | Report abuse


The difference is that Pat Buchanan has never held any elected office, and so was never considered seriously as a candidate for anything, least of all president. It was only self-promotion on the order of Al Sharpton.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 20, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

On Intrade the contract for Palin announcing a run (before the end of 2011) is selling right around 60%. I'd say that's high. She can't possibly relish the idea of being nationally humiliated, can she?

Huckabee's contract doesn't have enough volume to really quote the price, but it's generally been in the 60-80% range. Ditto for this one. He seems too mellow a guy to want to jump back into the rough and tumble game of a presidential race.

Posted by: B2O2 | January 20, 2011 8:26 PM | Report abuse

How often do we hear that what the GOP needs as a candidate is someone 'broad' conservative views who 'can appeal to the centre'. Isn't that how we chose John McCain?

Posted by: genecarr100 | January 21, 2011 6:20 AM | Report abuse

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