Gingrich and Romney Lead GOP Race Without Huckabee and Palin

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 15, 2011   |   12:56PM   |   Washington, DC

With anecdotal evidence making some political observers believe either Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee — or both — may not seek the Republican nomination for president in 2012, one polling firm looked at how that would change the race.

When asked who they want to take on pro-abortion President Barack Obama next year, Republican primary voters nationwide could not be less clear as the usual top four are in a statistical tie, each with less than 20% of the vote and just as many undecided.

Mike Huckabee leads with 18%, followed by Mitt Romney’s 17%, Sarah Palin’s 16%, Newt Gingrich’s 14%, Ron Paul’s 9%, Tim Pawlenty’s 5%, Mitch Daniels’ 4%, and Haley Barbour’s 1%. Another 15 percent are undecided or favor someone unnamed in the poll, conducted by the PPP polling firm.

However, when the same GOP voter set is asked about their favorite for president without Huckabee in the field, Romney edges Palin and Gingrich, 20-19-18, with Paul at 12% and the others further back. Without Palin in the race, Huckabee tops Gingrich and Romney, 22-20-18.

But with neither Huckabee nor Palin involved in the primary election, Gingrich and Romney tie at 24%, with Paul at 12% as Palin’s voters go more heavily to Gingrich than to Romney.

“The Republican field continues to be devoid of a front runner,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “And even if Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin doesn’t run or both don’t run there still won’t be a clear front runner. It couldn’t be much more up for grabs.”

When asked their second choice of all candidates, GOP voters named Huckabee with 19 percent, Gingrich with 14 percent, Palin with 12 percent, Romney with 9 percent and Pawlenty with 7 percent. Combining the first and second choices, Huckabee has 37 percent, Gingrich and Palin get 28 percent, Romney has 26 percent, Paul gets 13 percent and Pawlenty 12 percent.

Of the top four potential candidates, Palin leads with a 61 percent approval rating to 56 percent for Huckabee, 51 percent for Romney and 50 percent for Gingrich. Gingrich has the highest unfavorable rating among Republicans surveyed at 32 percent to 29 percent for Romney, 26 percent for Palin and Huckabee has the lowest at 22 percent.

PPP surveyed 600 national Republican primary voters from March 10-13.