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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Are We Really Down to Just Three GOP Candidates?

Time magazine's Mark Halperin contemplates who is going to win the GOP nomination and announces that it will be one of three governors: Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, or Jon Huntsman. “As of now, one of the former governors -- Romney, Huntsman, and Pawlenty -- will almost certainly be the party’s presidential nominee," Halperin writes.

Halperin puts the odds of Romney winning at 2 to 1, Huntsman at 9 to 2, and Pawlenty at 5 to 1.

The basis for Halperin’s crystal ball selections is unknown. Halperin is presumably as savvy as most political pundits about polling and empirical research. But it’s obvious he is stretching far beyond empirical data with his current prognostications.

At the moment, the data do suggest that Romney -- who officially announced Thursday -- can be considered to be a front-runner. For one thing, Romney's high name ID carries him to the top of the list in Gallup's latest "trial heat" poll. However, and this is a big "however," Romney gets just 17% of the “vote” of Republicans nationwide, lower than the 22% who say they can’t make a choice. Romney receives a Positive Intensity Score that is roughly as high as that given to the other well-known candidates. His score is, howevver, behind the less-well known candidates Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, and behind where Mike Huckabee was before he dropped out.

Data from actual Republican voters are not giving off any indications that Huntsman or Pawlenty are among their top choices for their party’s presidential nomination.

Let’s look at the case of former Utah Governor and Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman.

Although certainly attractive on paper -- wealthy, Ivy League graduate, former state governor, fluent in Mandarin Chinese -- less than a third of Republicans nationwide recognize Huntsman's name. More importantly, perhaps, is the fact that those who do recognize his name are not at all impressed, giving Huntsman one of the three lowest Positive Intensity Scores that we measure here at Gallup. His stint as President Obama’s Ambassador to China may actually be hurting Huntsman among Republicans. When Huntsman is included in a list of candidates read to Republicans, exactly 2% choose him as their preferred nominee.

So, the assumption that Huntsman (who has not yet declared officially that he is going to run, of course) will be a serious contender for the GOP presidential nomination is based on something other than views of actual Republicans.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, one of Halperin’s other three assumed winners is -- unlike Huntsman -- an officially announced candidate, and half of Republicans know him. That’s up 10 percentage points from mid-March. But the University of Minnesota graduate's relatively low recognition means that he scores down the list when Republicans are asked for whom they will vote when given a list of possible candidates. Pawlenty gets 6% of the vote.

Pawlenty actually has just about the same following as Romney based on those who know the candidates. Pawlenty's Positive Intensity Score is 15, compared with Huntsman’s 8 and Romney’s 14. Pawlenty's Positive Intensity Score can be grouped with those of Romney, Sarah Palin, and Rick Santorum.

It is true that Pawlenty is from Minnesota -- contiguous to Iowa -- which could give him a reasonable chance to do well in that state’s caucuses. And this, in turn, could help him as the nomination process moves on. Of course the same advantage presumably accrues to Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

All in all, the data suggest that Romney has the ingredients of a potential winner, that Pawlenty is a wait-and-see candidate as his name ID grows, and that Hunstman shows no signs on any indicator -- yet -- that he is blossoming into a potential contender.

One would have to say from an evidence-based viewpoint that Sarah Palin is as much a possible winner as any of the three male governors on which Halperin focuses. She gets essentially the same trial-heat candidate support as Romney, and she has as good a Positive Intensity Score.

Palin is one of four Republicans who at this point generate the most passion among rank-and-file Republicans. That group also includes Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and Newt Gingrich. The first three of these generate a lot of positive passion. The last two generate a relatively high amount of negative passion.

Right now Herman Cain, Michele Bachman, and Sarah Palin stand out with strong favorable ratings of 27%, 23%, and 22%, respectively. In terms of strong unfavorable ratings, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich are at the top of the list, with 8% and 7%, respectively.

None of the three individuals that Halperin calls attention to generate strong passion at this point.

Maybe the race will eventually come down to the three people Halperin nominates. But one cannot make that prognostication at this point using currently available data.


Anonymous said...
June 3, 2011 at 12:23 PM  

How ironic that there is no mention of Ron Paul, though he ranks well within the "Top 4" in both overall percentage points, acceptance by those explicitly stating themselves as Republicans, AND Positive Intensity mention of his name whatsoever baffles me in this article.

Michael said...
June 3, 2011 at 3:26 PM  

Where is Ron Paul?? I guess the media will never change. If there is someone who is not corrupted and will actually bring change...they won't cover him...even if he has tons of support.

Matt said...
June 7, 2011 at 11:03 AM  

Halperin failed to even include Herman Cain in his list TWICE and this occurred after Gallup's instructive polling. This is strange given that he included candidates who had presumably far lower prospects for the nomination.

Halperin increasingly appears to be an erratic commentator who increasingly shows a pro-administration bias.

Anonymous said...
June 12, 2011 at 5:40 AM  

I think the only guy with a snowballs chance against Obama in 2012 is Ron Paul. He's got name recognition, funding, grassroots support, credibility, a track record of being right and having integrity, a huge base of impassioned supporters and, mostly, The climate is changing to favor him.

The rest of these guys just cannot generate enthusiasm. Even Herman Cain has a better chance then those 3.

The electorate is changing. People are a little smarter at every age category in 2012 than 2008 due to the influence of the internet and politics as usual does not play. Vague platitudes, a nice smile and a confident air will no longer win you a presidential race.

Look at 2010. The tea party smashed congresses and houses in every state and many governors offices as well. I could see maybe Michelle Bachman getting the nod. But you cannot take a business-as-usual, compromising, middle-of-the-road GOPer into the 2012 primary race and all three of those guys are just that.

Anonymous said...
June 24, 2011 at 9:48 AM  

Don't count out big GOP money "drafting" Jeb Bush. He can outfundraise any of the known GOP candidates with the possible exception of Palin, and he is electable. And as an added bonus, he is sure to make liberal Democrats heads explode...

Anonymous said...
June 28, 2011 at 5:09 PM  

You're crazy if you think another Bush will get elected. As Republicans love to point out, Obama essentially beat not John McCain in 2008 but George W.

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