Romney, Huckabee Lead GOP for 2012, Voters Want a Gov

National   Steven Ertelt   Dec 22, 2010   |   2:57PM    Washington, DC

Another new poll examining the Republicans looking to take on pro-abortion President Barack Obama continues to have some of the same names at the top of the stack.

The survey, conducted by Clarus Research Group, also found GOP voters appear to want a pragmatic governor who is a mainstream conservative without being too much of a firebrand.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the former leaders of Massachusetts and Arkansas who ran in 2008 as pro-life candidates, top the poll with 18 percent each. Another pro-life former governor, Sarah Palin of Alaska, received the support of 17 percent.

The poll included a larger number of other potential candidates, some of whom either have already said they will not run or are unlikely to do so.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich received 10 percent in the poll to come in fourth place, but the next two finishers do not appear to be potential presidential candidates based on the fact they are newly elected to their current jobs. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie received 9 percent and Florida Sen.-elect Marco Rubio received 5 percent. All three are pro-life advocates.

Another unlikely candidate, pro-life Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, received 4 percent while pro-life Texas Rep. Ron Paul received the same amount of support.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is pro-life, received three percent while Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, South Dakota Sen. John Thune  and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels all received two percent each. Another 5 percent of Republicans are undecided.

“Romney, Huckabee, and Palin are the early top tier candidates,” said Ron Faucheux, president of Clarus Research Group, “but the other possible candidates capture a total of 41 percent of the vote, indicating that this race is wide open.

“In addition to the top three, Gingrich shows substantial strength and Christie does very well given his limited nationwide recognition. Though other candidates are generally not now well known, there is plenty of room for one or more of them to emerge as major contenders,” said Faucheux. “Of course, all 12 of the names we tested are not likely to run. As the field develops and the campaign gets underway, expect to see numbers change.”

While the polls numbers may not be useful because of the number of candidates who probably will not be running that were included the survey did help sketch a picture of the kind of Republican candidate GOP voters want to take on Obama.

Republicans said they want a nominee with management and business experience, likely a governor, and someone who is pragmatic more than ideological.

Some 61 percent of Republicans prefer a mainstream conservative with a good chance of beating Obama to a conservative firebrand who is outspoken but has less of a chance to win. That bodes well for someone like Romney or Pawlenty as opposed to a potential candidate like Palin who is perceived as not having the ability to defeat Obama.

The poll also found 49 percent of Republicans prefer an intelligent and competent nominee who can debate the issues against Obama as opposed to someone who has consistent conservative principles. Another 65 percent of Republicans want someone with management and executive experience as a former business leader or governor while 15 percent prefer someone with legislative experience

The survey was conducted December 10-16 and has a 5.1 percent margin of error.