Gallup: Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin Lead GOP Presidential Race

Politics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 26, 2011   |   11:19AM   |   Washington, DC

With Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump, and Mitch Daniels have decided against participating in the Republican presidential primary race, a new Gallup poll finds two familiar names lead the pack:  Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin.

While the survey results may reflect name identification rather than hardcore support at this early point in the race, the new Gallup national survey of Republicans and independents who lean Republican show Romney and Palin have the most support virtue of a lack of other well-known names in the prospective final Republican field. Still, Republicans choose none of the above more than any other candidate.

“Mitt Romney (17%) and Sarah Palin (15%) now lead a smaller field of potential Republican presidential candidates in rank-and-file Republicans’ preferences for the party’s 2012 nominee,” Gallup indicates. “Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Herman Cain essentially tie for third, with Cain registering 8% support in his initial inclusion in Gallup “trial heat” polling. Tim Pawlenty is right behind them with 6 percent support from Republicans.”

Notably, 22% of Republicans do not have a preference at this point and a handful of other Republican candidates score in the low single digits.

In Gallup’s April update, Huckabee and Trump were the co-leaders, with Huckabee placing first in the other Gallup updates this year — making it clear the race for the GOP nomination to take on pro-abortion President Barack Obama has considerable shaking out to do in the months ahead.

Palin is probably the biggest wild card of the candidates Gallup surveyed and, taking her out of the equation, Republican voters line up behind Romney with 19 percent of the vote, Gingrich with 12 percent, Paul with 12 percent, Cain at 8, and Pawlenty and Bachmann at 7 percent apiece. Without Palin in the race, the percentage of undecided GOP voters moves up to 25 percent.

“Romney’s and Palin’s status at the top of the field is owing in large part to their high name identification among rank-and-file Republicans. Gingrich and Paul are also well-known among the party base,” Gallup indicates. “In the short term, Romney and Palin seem to have benefited most from several prominent potential Republican candidates’ decisions not to run for president. Should Palin follow suit and not enter the race, Romney would be the clear front-runner, but arguably the weakest front-runner in any recent Republican nomination campaign.”

For pro-life advocates, each of the candidates will be running as pro-life, but some Republican voters see Romney as weaker because of his shift before the 2008 presidential election from a pro-abortion to a pro-life position. By virtue of not having a lengthy pro-life record, the best Romney is able to do is promote pro-life themes and talk about his support for overturning Roe v. Wade or what he would do if elected president.

Palin is endearing for many pro-life voters and both her personal story and her frequent fundraising for pro-life and pregnancy center groups puts her in good stead, but, should she decide against running for the nomination, her supporters will have to look elsewhere for a candidate to support.

Other pro-life advocates are looking to someone like Tim Pawlenty who has a very lengthy pro-life record as the former governor of Minnesota, or Herman Cain, who has railed against the ways in which the Planned Parenthood abortion business has targeted African-Americans.

The eventual nominee will enjoy considerable support from the pro-life community as he or she takes on Obama and his lengthy pro-abortion record.