Many of the major pollsters and news organizations that conduct surveys have already begun testing the possible candidates for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination and matching them against President Barack Obama. It's an exercise probably more useful in gauging what voters think of them today than how they might feel next year.
That's particularly true in the race for the GOP nomination, but it's also true for the matchups with Obama because of the number of variables, ranging from the direction of the economy, whether the new empowerment of Republicans on Capitol Hill makes the most of their new status or disappoints voters, to the whole constellation of unforeseen events, (like the financial meltdown in 2008).
That said, the latest poll, conducted Nov. 8-15 by Quinnipiac University
, does not contain particularly good news for Obama.
Forty-nine percent say he doesn't deserve re-election, 43 percent say he does deserve a second term, and 9 percent are undecided. Independents say he doesn't deserve another term by 51 percent to 35 percent, with 14 percent undecided.
This result is not a big surprise. Other polls that have asked the same or similar questions during the year have produced similar findings, as Obama has paid the price for the continuing economic problems facing the country.
In matchups with several potential Republican nominees, Obama finds himself in close races with Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. Romney leads him by 45 percent to 44 percent, and Obama leads Huckabee by 46 percent to 44 percent, which is within the poll's 2-point margin of error. The remainder of those surveyed preferred someone else, said they wouldn't vote or were undecided. Both Romney and Huckabee led Obama among independents.
While Sarah Palin told ABC's Barbara Walters
she thought she could beat Obama, he leads her in the poll by 48 percent to 40 percent, with independents, in this case, on his side by 46 percent to 35 percent, and the rest undecided.
Quinnipiac also matched Obama against little-known Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, which the pollster said was akin to matching Obama against a generic Republican, given Daniels' anonymity. Obama led Daniels by 45 percent to 36 percent. Again, the remainder included those who preferred someone else, didn't plan to vote or were undecided.
Despite grumblings from the liberal wing of the party and those who feel Obama's performance was in part responsible for the midterm losses, the poll found little sentiment for replacing him as nominee. Sixty-four percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners said they didn't want to see a candidate other than Obama run for the Democratic nomination in 2012.
Quinnipiac's Peter Brown concluded from these numbers, "The Democratic base remains squarely behind President Barack Obama when it comes to his re-election, but his weakness among independent voters at this point makes his 2012 election prospects uncertain."
As for the Republican nomination, Quinnipiac, as well as other polls, all pretty much agree on a "top four" at this point, although the standings among them may vary: Palin, Romney, Huckabee and Newt Gingrich. (Quinnipiac did not test Gingrich against Obama in its poll).
Palin led the pack in the Quinnipiac survey of Republicans and Republican leaners at 19 percent, followed by Romney at 18 percent, Huckabee at 17 percent and Gingrich at 15 percent.
A Gallup poll
, conducted Nov. 13-14, had Romney on top at 19 percent, Palin and Huckabee tied at 16 percent, and Gingrich at 13 percent. Gallup's poll also surveyed Republicans and Republican leaders. The margin of error was 4 points.
These outcomes are hardly a surprise because of the importance of simple name recognition this early in the process. Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, who jumped into the last GOP race with little national visibility and even less campaign staff and resources, went on to beat Romney, with his powerhouse campaign, in the Iowa caucuses. Huckabee's victory came despite the fact he had been "barely a blip on the national scene just two months ago," The New York Times wrote
after the caucuses.
In the distant second tier of the Quinnipiac poll, the top vote-getter is Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, who has been one of the most active early candidates. Pawlenty gets 6 percent, with Daniels of Indiana, Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Sen. John Thune of South Dakota tied at 2 percent. Gallup had those four at 3 percent or less, but came up with 7 percent for iconoclastic Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, whose Libertarian followers flocked to his 2008 presidential campaign.
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