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Huckabee Leads GOP 2012 Contenders As Palin Fades

In the immediate aftermath of her bizarre and still inexplicable decision to quit as Alaska’s Governor, Sarah Palin was in second place behind Mitt Romney in a poll of Republicans about their preference among candidates for the 2012 nomination.

A new Rasmussen poll, though, shows that Palin has faded to third place behind Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney:

Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Republican voters nationwide say former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is their pick to represent the GOP in the 2012 Presidential campaign. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey finds that 24% prefer former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney while 18% would cast their vote for former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich gets 14% of the vote while Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty gets 4%. Six percent (6%) of GOP voters prefer some other candidate while 7% remain undecided.

These numbers reflect an improvement for Huckabee since July when the three candidates were virtually even. Huckabee’s gain appears to be Palin’s loss as Romney’s support has barely changed.

(…)

The numbers for Huckabee and Romney look even stronger when GOP voters were asked which candidate they would least like to see get the nomination. Pawlenty came on top in that category with 28%. Palin was second at 21% while 20% named Gingrich. Romney and Huckabee were in the single digits with 9% and 8% respectively.

Huckabee and Romney are viewed favorably by 78% of Republican voters, Palin by 75%. Gingrich earns favorably reviews from 69% while Pawlenty is less well known and gets a positive assessment from 45% of Republicans.

Of course, it’s worth nothing that much of this is speculative at best and, considering that we’re more than 27 months from the first primary votes will be cast in 2012, it’s not at all clear that it means much of anything. Consider this — back in June 2006, 31 months away from the start of the 2008 primary season, Rudy Giuliani had a five point lead in the Republican “race” for 2008; and, in December 2005, just a little over 24 months from the start of the primary season, both Giuliani and Hillary Clinton held leads in their respective parties primary races.

So, take these numbers with a grain — no, make that several tablespoons — of salt.

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