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No room for a 2012 underdog?

A new national poll out of CNN/Opinion Research Corporation shows that less than one in five Republicans haven't picked a candidate in the 2012 presidential primary fight, a remarkably small group of undecided voters that suggests there may be little room for a dark horse to emerge.

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (Ark.) led the way with 32 percent followed by former Gov. Sarah Palin (Alaska) at 25 percent and former Gov. Mitt Romney (Mass.) at 21 percent. Five percent opted for Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (Minn.) while 10 percent of the sample chose "someone else" and another five percent said "no one".

Huckabee and Romney are household names in Republican circles thanks to their unsuccessful runs for president in 2008. Palin, who shared the national ticket with Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) last November, may the second best known politician in the country (aside from the current resident of the White House). And, Pawlenty is moving aggressively around the country to ensure he can compete with the big boys (and girl) in 2012.

The solidity of the field reminds us of the state of play heading into the 2008 Democratic presidential primary when three candidates -- then Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) as well as former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) -- took roughly 75 percent of the vote share in most national polling, leaving little room for the likes of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, then Sen. Joe Biden (Del.) or Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.) to make a serious challenge to the top tier.

It's a stark contrast to the 2004 Democratic presidential primary when no candidate managed to break the mid-teens or low 20s even as votes in Iowa and New Hampshire approached.

It's important to remember a few caveats, however, before assuming the next Republican nominee will be named either Palin, Romney or Huckabee (or even Pawlenty).

First, the field is far from set. If Palin decides not to run -- a very real possibility -- then a significant segment of her ardent backers will be on the lookout for a new candidate. Same goes for Huckabee although he seems more likely at the moment to run than Palin. It's hard to imagine either Romney or Tpaw not running.

Second, CNN offered poll respondents four specific candidates (or none of the above), a methodology which is more likely to produce a smaller sliver of undecided voters than would an open-ended question where those being polled are asked to supply the name of their preferred candidate.

Third, we are still more than two years away from the first vote in Iowa. And, in that time, lots can happen. Need evidence? At this time in the 2008 presidential cycle, talk of Obama as candidate was just beginning and seemed more of an interesting idea than an real-life scenario.

All of that means that if you have your heart set on a candidacy by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) -- the Fix's favorite 2012 dark horse -- or some other aspiring national pol, there's no need to despair.

Still, the CNN survey does show that the major 2012 contenders have real -- and signficant -- support even this far in advance of the votes. Whether they can keep that support and grow it will be the test of the next 24 months.

By Chris Cillizza  |  October 28, 2009; 11:10 AM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2012  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Morning Fix: Races heat up in NY, NJ; Palin to Iowa?
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Mitt Romney was the best candidate for President in 2008 and he will be the best in 2012. I'll take Sarah Palin as a second choice. I think she would surround herself with honest people as well. As for Huckabee...he is a great debater but he talked like a Democrat in the primary and according to the best on our side he took liberal stances as a governor. Besides this, he is a knave. God willing Mitt Romney will be our next President with Sarah as Vice President!

Posted by: wdwrightii | October 31, 2009 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Romney probably won't do as well this time out as he did in 2008. He's got Massachusetts-care hanging around his neck like a millstone & he was a TARP cheerleader - neither one of those supports the idea of him as an economic wizkid politically.

Things could change, but his opponents will probably be able to do a lot of damage with those in our current conservative resurgence.

I like Palin, but she has to find a way to overcome her Dan Quayle stigma in order to get anywhere and 2012 is, in all probability, not enough time.

Pawlenty is a nice guy, but no charisma - and I've heard from folks in his state that he will have some baggage of his own to contend with. Plus, he looks to be the guy that the GOP hierarchy may be pushing this time out - that could be the kiss of death with our TEA party climate right now.

Huckabee is the best shot we've got at taking the WH back - and despite what the liberals are saying, he has a very good chance at succeeding.

Having researched his time in AR for myself rather than accepting the word of people with ulterior motives, it is clear that Huckabee is a man with an impeccable executive resume.

He cleared out a lot of the bureaucratic bloat & improved efficiency in AR - no mean feat. He IS a fiscal conservative, but he is a reasoned one. Despite the smears, the only things he spent money on were exactly the things people WANT the govt. to attend to - things like improving children's health, education & necessary road improvements.

He took AR from a major deficit to an almost $3bn surplus while he was governor - and he did it while working with a Democrat legislature who hated him so much that they nailed his office door to the chamber shut!

Here's a guy who can handle partisanship because he has dealt with it at its worst! Not by using nuclear options, but by winning enough of them over to get them all to work together when it mattered.

So many of today's pols encourage the division & animus between us because they can profit politically by it. Wouldn't it be awesome to have a guy in office who actually wanted to see our country united and had the ability to initiate that healing?

Posted by: QuoVadisAnima | October 29, 2009 3:19 AM | Report abuse

Chris, seriously. If this is the best you've got on their side, you might as well start figuring out which Democratic governor will become POTUS 45 in 2017.

It won't be Deeds, and it can't be Granholm, but that's all the help I'm going to give you for now.

Posted by: mikenmidland | October 28, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Once the race begins in earnest, I think you'll see these ratings shift with Romney and Pawlenty rising and Huck and Palin will falling.


Polishing the brass on the deck of the Titanic.

Palin won't even run, she can get plenty of attention without working anywhere near as hard as a campaign demands and we all know that she's not really into hard work, just getting attention.

Huckabee won't concede, nosirree, nor will he pay any attention to the EV math. Forget not that this is a guy who believes in miracles and it's perfectly congruent for him to believe he'll get votes entirely unforecast in polling because The Big Guy is on his side. And when he loses the nomination he'll probably run under some other banner.

Pawlenty? Please. Personality of a doorknob as someone put it a few months ago, phony achievements, phony populist.

Romney? Not going to get the Base vote and he can't win without it.

And nobody can win with it.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | October 28, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't read a whole lot into this now.

Haven't we all seen those man-on-the-street polls where people are asked to name the Vice-President or Speaker of the House. Unfortunately, people are shockingly ignorant and when someone polls folks this early in the game, they likely answer with a name they know. Obviously, Pawlenty isn't well know at this juncture.

Once the race begins in earnest, I think you'll see these ratings shift with Romney and Pawlenty rising and Huck and Palin will falling.

Posted by: Ci2Eye | October 28, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

the next republican president will be a jobs President


As in "ship them to India and China."

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | October 28, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

the next republican president will be a jobs President and will not disappoint...
he will undo the harm obama did and move the country forward...

Posted by: DwightCollins | October 28, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Someone in the media needs to axe Biden if Huckabee is clean and articulate enough to become president.

Posted by: c_e_daniel | October 28, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

"According to top level documents obtained by Drudge, the Dems wanted huckabee to be the 2008 nominee for an "easy kill".

Right, chief. If drudge says it, well, it must be true. Great year for conspiracy theorists, isn't it?

Posted by: drindl | October 28, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

I think danson1 needs to share a beer with snowbama and CC.


Flakey Foont: "want some pizza, Mr. Natural?"

Mr. Natural: "I don't eat that sh*t"

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | October 28, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

I think danson1 needs to share a beer with snowbama and CC.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | October 28, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

According to top level documents obtained by Drudge, the Dems wanted huckabee to be the 2008 nominee for an "easy kill". Add that sick joke huck made about Obama and you can bet your buns they'll want him even more as the 2012 nominee!

Perception from liberals and Democrats

On December 11, 2007 the Drudge Report found out that the highest levels of the Democratic Party told their officials to avoid any criticism of 2008 Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee, until he would secure the nomination. One Democrat said "He'll easily be their McGovern, an easy kill." The last time the Democratic National Committee criticized Huckabee was on March 2nd, 2007.[54]

Posted by: Shelbysez | October 28, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Sarah may not be a progressive, but at least she realizes that times do change. Just 20 years ago, she had to elope when she got pregnant, but last year she was able to display her pregnant unwed daughter at the RNC with only the promise of eventual nuptuals.

Seen your kid lately, Levi? Or won't they let you any more?

Posted by: mikenmidland | October 28, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

I find this post by CC rather amusing. President Obama has been in office ten months -- and now the race is on to find a GOP candidate for 2012. Has anyone noticed that Romney, Huckabee and Palin have NO JOB? They are just personalities, not contributing to our society in any gainful manner. (Huckabee's position at Fox is a nothing job.) TPaw has already announced that he will not run again for governor. So, for 2012, the race for the GOP nomination will be among people who haven't WORKED for a living like the rest of Americans MUST do.

Posted by: DRFJR | October 28, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Oops...I meant to say:

Google huckabee Obama gun...YOU WILL GET ONE MILLION HITS!

Posted by: Shelbysez | October 28, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

shrink -- this is pretty comical. it sounds like the 'movement' is devolving to me... wonder how much longer they'll be walking on their hind legs?

Posted by: drindl | October 28, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Oregon Storm @ 11:51 AM, You have got to be kidding...FOXNEWS can be trusted to educate the Repubs about Repub candidates?! Hmm, I don’t recall Fox EVER mentioning their own guy mike huckabee last summer making a sick joke about Obama being in fear because someone pointed a gun at him! This was widely reported by other media: Google huck Obama gun…YOU WILL GET ONE MILLION HITS! I also do not recall them mentioning huckabee being on Judicial Watches 2007 List of Top Ten Most Corrupt Politicians.

And now about Fox’s darling $arah palin: when has Fox ever noted to their viewers that there have been MULTIPLE unwed pregnancies in the palin household? Not just Bristol’s but $arah’s too. I don’t recall hearing that Fox ever informed their viewers of this. $arah a conservative? I don’t think so…there is a pattern in her life. Maybe this is why $arah will not release her medical records. Fox does their viewers a disservice when they don’t report very relevant information about potential candidates and their (lack of) viability in a general election. Fox is just like MSNBC in regards to their selective reporting. MSNBC: Obama good; Repubs bad.

From an article by THE HILL on the book, Trailblazer:

“Lorenzo Benet, an assistant editor at People magazine, tries to capitalize on Palin’s star power in his latest book, Trailblazer: An Intimate Biography of Sarah Palin.

But even with all of his focus on Palin’s values, Benet practically glosses over what was apparently a shotgun wedding. The Palins eloped on Aug. 29, 1988, to the surprise of their parents and friends. Their firstborn, Track, was delivered almost exactly eight months later, on April 20, 1989.

When contacted by The Hill, Bill McAllister, a spokesman for Palin, said only: “I think it’s part of the public record that the governor and her husband eloped.” He declined to comment on the timing of Track’s birth.”


Palin releases letter from doctor
November 03, 2008

"She waited until 10:37 on the night before the election, but Sarah Palin has released a medical summary."

Posted by: Shelbysez | October 28, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

AP - Taliban militants wearing suicide vests and police uniforms stormed a guest house used by U.N. staff in the heart of the Afghan capital Wednesday, killing 11 people including five U.N. workers.

While barry dithers and confronts his war with Fox news and other Democrats, our actual enemy thinks about war slightly differently.

Posted by: snowbama | October 28, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

None of these guys will stand a chance against Obama. Pawlenty and Romney probably woon't even win their own states.

Posted by: jbentley4 | October 28, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Good point about conservatives, shrink2. Aside from GWB, all the Republican nominees in the last 50 years had been around the national scene a while. And of course GWB ran on his dad's name.

So with conservatives it really is about name recognition. Mitt gets the mainstream/moderates, Huckabee gets religious conservatives, and the Club for Growth throws its money behind TPaw. Pass the popcorn!

Posted by: mikenmidland | October 28, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

First of all with only 5% of the Baffled and Doomed Party supporting Pawlenty, can we please give it a rest with the this-just-in breaking-news excitement over this guy?

Second of all, look at this lineup: Huckabee, Palin, Romney. Three supremely unelectable people. Palin's not going to run, she craves attention more than power. Huckabee is a clown hardly any more appealing than Palin, and Romney's plasticity (in at least two senses of the word) will wear thin before the primaries are over.

Whistling past the graveyard.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | October 28, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

"It's very hard to believe that 80% of Republican primary voters have already made up their minds, more than 2 years before the first primary votes are cast.

This poll doesn't measure real support; it measures name recognition and memories of 2008. The numbers will change when the candidates announce their policies, start showing ads, hold events and fundraisers, etc. That's what the primary season is all about.

Posted by: Blarg"

Well, if you toss a whole bunch of names at someone, you're not going to get a lot of respondents who isn't going to like at least one of them. I don't know that this means that dark horses are going to have an atypically hard time. It will be about people who can get their voices out there. Now due to the fact that the campaign season is so long, the knowns are going to have an advantage. That's why the big names dominated the campaigns in 2007-2008.

But anyways, the name of the game is Iowa and NH. What you really need to do is get yourself on the good side of the chopping block. Then you're in really good shape and it's relatively easy to make your pitch to these states and get your name recognition that way.

Posted by: DDAWD | October 28, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Here you go.

He shot himself, he says, because he was fixing the proverbial friend's bike and naturally there was a gun in the little tool bag behind the saddle, which had no safety (or it was off) and, of course, had a chambered bullet. Well he bonked the bag removing it and that is his story.

I don't suppose his friend was doing a lot of bunny hopping prior to this. Probably didn't ride on the cobblestones either. But here in Oregon, I don't know anyone who goes for a ride without a ready-to-fire weapon under his saddle, anything else wouldn't be safe.

Posted by: shrink2 | October 28, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Cilliza do you really think anyone takes you seriously?
You sounded so stupid on Matthews the other day stating "We are predicting for the Republican Party to come back - however they're not helping with these scandals"....

You and Milbank ended your careers with that stupid stunt you had of the two of you in robes toasting beer (remember that lying cop from Mass. anyone?)


Posted by: danson1 | October 28, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

It's very hard to believe that 80% of Republican primary voters have already made up their minds, more than 2 years before the first primary votes are cast.

This poll doesn't measure real support; it measures name recognition and memories of 2008. The numbers will change when the candidates announce their policies, start showing ads, hold events and fundraisers, etc. That's what the primary season is all about.

Posted by: Blarg | October 28, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Seems to me like the GOP 2012 field is wide open and impossible to realistically handicap at this point. Might as well ask a palm reader until after the mid-terms.

Posted by: nodebris | October 28, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

I still bullish on Fred Thompson, because the conventional-wisdom-expert-bloviators spent so much time extolling him in the last go-around. They can't be wrong could they? These speculative columns are a waste, and I wonder why I even bother to click on them. Please find something more current and less speculative to write about.

Posted by: outragex | October 28, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

But mike, Republicans are not liberal.
The Obama was unknown analogy does not work. Remember, the base? Conservatives are called conservative because they like to vote for nostalgic fantasies. Liberals like to vote for progressive fantasies.

I think the reason it has to be the five CC named is because when they get in the voting booth, the Republican voter will know they liked him then (I agree Palin won't run) and they like him now, simple as that. Bush Jr. was supposed to be a chip off the ol' block. Whether Reagan or retired generals, Republican Presidents simply have to have had lots of prior exposure.

Posted by: shrink2 | October 28, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Sarah will always have her 25% 'Mizollini' lovers as she flirts with the most extreme, secessionists. The CEO of corporate Mormonism will never win because the dominant conservative cult, the Evangelicals, will never vote for a Mormon no matter how many times they put JC's name out there. Golden glasses special underpants are just too weird. Huckabee has his "the literal Bible" problem that keeps him from embracing Science. It's the 21st century.

Republicans, after 40 years, finally got hold of both houses of Government in 2000 and wrecked the country and nearly caused world-wide economic collapse. America rejected their extreme anti-government, right-wing Christian ideology in 2008 and they'll do it again in 2010. They will spend 40 years in the political wilderness for worshiping false idols.

Posted by: thebobbob | October 28, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

shrink, what was the guy's name -- I really want to find out how he shot himself. It sounds ribald.

Posted by: drindl | October 28, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Besides, when Palin doesn't run, there's another 25% just waiting for a new savior.

Posted by: mikenmidland | October 28, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Come on, Chris! At what percentage does a "dark horse" usually start at? What was Obama's percentage in Iowa, even six months before the caucuses?

You've got 15% who are not satisfied with any of four well-known names. I'm not saying there will be a dark-horse candidate, but 15% is plenty to start with in a 5-person race.

Posted by: mikenmidland | October 28, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

What a relief.

Huckabee, Palin, Romney,

The Democrats can't complain about these options. If Obama does not win in 2012,
I'll eat my hat.

But that OregonSturmfront guy has a real beef. Out in Oregon, the only Republican candidate for Governor with a serious shot, shot himself in the groin (in circumstances that are well, beyond belief) last year and has now withdrawn for health reasons. Yet Fox has failed to identify a Republican candidate for Oregon Governor. What gives?

Posted by: shrink2 | October 28, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

I think Thune is more likely to sign on as a vice presidential nominee this time around and, if that doesn't work out, then run on his own or as Pat Roberts VP pick in 2016.

Huckabee's run is only "weak" if you don't consider that he had no establishment backing and little experience or reputation nationally. If the social conservative base dominates the nominating process, as I think they will, Huckabee stands a good chance of winning the nomination. As much as conservatives love Palin, fundamentalist Christians also tend towards patriarchy because Titus, among others, tells them to. If social conservatives back Huckabee and Romney and Pawlenty split the establishment vote, Huckabee wins the nomination and picks the telegenic Thune as his running mate.

Huckabee/Thune in 2012, anyone?

Posted by: Gallenod | October 28, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Here's Huckabee's problem -- in fact the problem for ALL the R presidential candidates. It is not possible to be 'conservative' enough, you see. The bar is too 'high', there are too many litmus tests.

"WHAT: In a Club for Growth PAC-FreedomWorks event, the nation’s leading conservative organizations will hold a joint press conference to tell South Carolina voters about Governor Mike Huckabee’s liberal economic record. '

Posted by: drindl | October 28, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Let's face facts!! Sarah Palin is not a serious 2012 presidential candidate. If the some members of the Republican Party leadership think that she is a viable candidate and she becomes the face of the Republican Party, then the party is really in deep trouble. This woman is clearly not fit for any public office let alone the U.S. Presidency. I don't know what she is trying to do by showing up at political events or even showing up on talk shows. If she thinks that she can repair her damaged credibility and change public opinion about her fitness for public office, I think that what she is doing so far is not working and will not work. Sarah Palin will be no more successful in changing the public's first impression of her than Dan Quayle was in changing the public's first impression of him.

Posted by: abishop2 | October 28, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

What I think this demonstrates more than anything is that the race for President never stops. If you want to be a serious candidate you need to start laying the ground work now. If you wait until 2011 (aghem Newt) than there is no room for you.

Posted by: AndyR3 | October 28, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

"We REALLY need to educate our Republican electorate on the venality of the media (both electronic and print)!"

If you people haven't managed to do this by now, it's probably not going to happen. You've been whining and screaming about this for quite some time now.

Posted by: DDAWD | October 28, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

bruiser, oregan and leapin's comments all tell me tht the R base will turn on ANY candidate who's electable. 2012's gonna be a great year for Dems.

Posted by: drindl | October 28, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

As conservatives part the waters and begin distancing themselves from the anything for a vote and money RepubliKKKan party, the fight between Huckabee and Palin should provide high theater. While Saucy Sarah can always count on mavericky moron Limbaugh-leaning support, her dysfunctional family history may cause the Christo-terrorists to shift for Huckabee as a known quantity without qualities. Perhaps he'll run on an "Abstinence CAN Work", ticket. Are there surprises lurking in his background which weren't exposed during his weak run last time?
Wait and see......

Posted by: bgreen2224 | October 28, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

What a joke.
Blue Donkeys versus Red Elephants.

When will the WAPO do an expose' on the forces of the Bankster Oligarchy that captured Americas Government ?

The Fall of the Republic -- The Presidency of Barack H. Obama

Chillizzas' profession has become irrelevant.

Posted by: bruiserND | October 28, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Anyone else sick of the MSM picking our Republican candidates? We REALLY need to educate our Republican electorate on the venality of the media (both electronic and print)! Fox is the ONLY outlet that can be trusted with the truth about Republican candidates. All the rest are simply in the pockets of one or more (or maybe all) Democrats.

Posted by: OregonStorm | October 28, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Tell me, leapin. Huckabee isn't conservative enough for you -- is that it?

Posted by: drindl | October 28, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Huckabee will play the role of the new McCain for the 2012 campaign. The WaPo will ensure that.

Posted by: leapin | October 28, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

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