Mike Huckabee has been making waves
lately for his comments about Natalie Portman's out-of-wedlock pregnancy and Barack Obama's "anti-colonial" boyhood, but a new poll shows the former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential hopeful still seems to be the hands-down favorite of conservative Christian voters who will be critical to securing the nomination.
The survey from the Barna Group
, a leading Christian research organization, also indicates that Huckabee could go toe-to-toe with all Republican challengers, and he would be the toughest foe for President Obama in November 2012.
Huckabee, a former Baptist pastor, is strongest among evangelical Christians -- the 7 percent of the population that Barna defines by the strictest criteria of traditional faith and biblical literalism -- with an 88 percent favorable rating, followed by former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, with a 79 percent favorable ranking.
The field tails off considerably from there among evangelicals, with Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney -- who are widely expected to be among the first to throw their hats in the ring -- clocking 57 and 56 percent favorability ratings, respectively.
President Obama registers a meager 6 percent approval rating among this group, and an eye-opening 94 percent unfavorability rating.
Among "born again Christians" -- a pivotal and largely Republican-leaning group in the last three elections that Barna describes as "considerably less conservative than its evangelical subset" -- Huckabee still leads, with a 58 percent favorability rating. But Romney surges to a 49 percent positive ranking, just behind Palin at 53 percent. Gingrich polls at just 43 percent among born again Christians.
Among all Republicans, Palin and Romney post 69 percent favorability scores, but Huckabee is just behind with a 68 percent favorable rating. Gingrich generated a 62-32 positive-to-negative score among members of his party.
Spread across all voters, the numbers for the leading GOP candidates reflected other recent polls
, as Huckabee still led, with 44 percent of adults holding a favorable view and 38 percent a negative view of him, followed by Romney, at an almost even 40-39 favorable-to-unfavorable ratio.
But the numbers for Palin (36 percent favorable) and Gingrich (32 percent favorable) fall off sharply from there.
An analysis by the Barna Group, which is led by evangelical Christian George Barna, concludes that while Obama stands "a better-than-even chance of being re-elected . . . Mrs. Palin would be the easiest opponent for him to defeat, while Mr. Huckabee would be the toughest adversary."
The numbers also suggest, however, that Huckabee's greatest electoral challenge could be securing his own party's nomination. In 2008, Huckabee's support among religious conservatives propelled him through the primaries, but he still finished second to John McCain.
Filed Under: Republicans
, Mitt Romney
, Mike Huckabee
, Sarah Palin
, 2012 President
, Newt Gingrich
, Barack Obama