Political Animal


May 26, 2011 10:10 AM Where things stand with the GOP field

By Steve Benen

Gallup has a new poll this morning, asking Republicans who they prefer among their GOP presidential hopefuls. It’s the first national poll taken after several prominent figures — Huckabee, Daniels, Trump, etc. — withdrew from consideration.

I found the results rather interesting:

1. Mitt Romney — 17%
2. Sarah Palin — 15%
3. Rand Paul — 10%
4. Newt Gingrich — 9%
5. Herman Cain — 8%
6. Tim Pawlenty — 6%
7. Michele Bachmann — 5%
8. Jon Huntsman — 2%
8. Gary Johnson — 2%
8. Rick Santorum — 2%

First, the obligatory caveat. National polls, at this early point in the process, are lacking in predictive value. The surveys in states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina are probably worth keeping a closer eye on, since winners and losers there will see their national numbers rise and fall accordingly.

That said, there are a couple of noteworthy things to take from these new results from Gallup. Herman Cain, for example, has a lot more support than I would have expected. Generally, these polls are largely driven by name recognition, but with Cain largely unknown as a national figure, and getting next to zero press coverage, this doesn’t explain his relatively strong showing.

The conventional wisdom is that Cain — a former pizza company executive with no experience in public office at any level — is better left ignored, no more credible that Johnson or Roemer. A couple of more polls like this one, though, and those assumptions will be need of some major revisions. Campaign reporters are closely following Pawlenty and Huntsman, but Gallup shows Cain’s support matching Pawlenty’s and Huntsman’s totals combined.

Also note Palin’s second-place showing, nearly matching Romney. Dave Weigel argues that she should be faring better, but I don’t quite see it that way — after all of this time as a national laughingstock, the former half-term governor is still one of the top GOP presidential candidates at the national level. The American mainstream may consider her a ridiculous punch-line, but she maintains a sizable base of right-wing support, and if she were to run, Palin would likely be able to compete as a top-tier challenger.

I suspect she’d have a fairly modest ceiling and couldn’t actually win the nomination, but Palin still has a following, ridiculous though it may be.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • DAY on May 26, 2011 10:16 AM:

    Palin- like the "rapture guy"- may a national laughing stock, but NOT to their supporters. Supporters who do not watch Jon Stewart, but do give loads of money to both of them.

  • c u n d gulag on May 26, 2011 10:21 AM:

    Well, Cain may not have NAME recognition, but Republicans aren't blind.

    Even they're not stupid enough not to recognize the dark chocolate Easter bunny in the field of white chocolate ones.

    And besides, saying they're FOR him proves to the world that they're NOT racist - we Liberals are the real racists.

    Also, too - there's a movie coming out trying to polish the turd that is "The Whore of Babblin' On."
    TBOGG calls it "The Triumph of the Shrill."
    And the sequal will be "The Triumph of the Shrill - Also II."

    Read it, it's great!

  • hells littlest angel on May 26, 2011 10:21 AM:

    The entire field is pretty damn ridiculous. I can't imagine the party surviving much longer if it continues to take seriously as candidates people who are so utterly unqualified/incompetent/dishonest/crazy.

  • wvmcl2 on May 26, 2011 10:23 AM:

    I assume #3 is Ron Paul, not Rand. Not that it would make much difference.

  • T2 on May 26, 2011 10:24 AM:

    forget Cain. The Republican Party will not nominate a black man, regardless of how many really bad pizzas he can sell.
    Palin, on the other hand....putting her on the ticket last time cleared the "GOP will not nominate a woman" meme. They can, especially if they feel that is the path to Power.
    As much as it pains me to say it, I think a Perry/Palin or Palin/Perry ticket would give Obama a run for his money. I keep saying this - Rick Perry guarantees the GOP the Texas electoral votes - a huge chunk. And if those two get elected....

  • wishIwuz2 on May 26, 2011 10:29 AM:

    Among other reasons, Huckabee, Daniels, maybe even Trump, got out because they don't see 2012 as win-able. Maybe the RNC is now considering which lamb to sacrifice. Putting Palin out there kills 2 birds: she really can't be further humiliated, and she'll provide plenty of red meat for the disciples.

  • Daryl P Cobranchi on May 26, 2011 10:29 AM:

    The American Family Association is running a straw poll right now in which Cain is leading the field. As of yesterday he had 25% and nobody else has more than 11%,

  • Live Free or Die on May 26, 2011 10:30 AM:

    Not be crass, but America is not going to trade in a light skinned brother for a dark skinned brother....Next. We already read this story with Obama vs Keyes. I dont know if Cain is a crazy as Keyes is,but he is no threat.

  • cmdicely on May 26, 2011 10:34 AM:

    I suspect shed have a fairly modest ceiling and couldnt actually win the nomination, but Palin still has a following, ridiculous though it may be.

    The thing that may break a lot of conventional thinking in the coming Republican primary season is positive feedback -- the most committed party activists tend to vote in primaries, and the across-the-board crazy among Republican candidates is being driven by the most committed activists in the party, and is in turn driving less-crazy voters to the margins of the party (or, in some cases, out of it), and thereby magnifying the importance to the primary of those activists who are already driving the crazy train.

    So it may be that having a modest ceiling limits general election prospects more than it limits prospects in the Republican primary.

    (Usually, when this sort of thing starts in either party, there is some pushback from the relatively centrist wing of the party, which usually has its own committed, activist base as well; the few times when there has been some apparent pushback from Republican leaders uncomfortable with the crazy this cycle, though, have all fizzled rather quickly, and it seems to me that there is no substantial counterbalancing forcing within the Republican activist base to the extremist group that is driving things right now: there's been some recent evidence in that with polls showing support for the Tea Party movement at almost identical levels to support for the Republican Party.)

    For all intents and purposes the Tea Party crazies have taken over the Republican Party; there are plenty Republicans -- both in office and in the electorate -- that aren't part of the Tea Party movement themselves, but even taken together they have very little influence in the direction of the party. Short of a major electoral defeat in 2012 forcing a reevaluation, I think that those resistant to the Tea Party inside the Republican Party are just going to keep being driven to the margins or out of the party entirely, rather than changing the course.

  • Rick B on May 26, 2011 10:34 AM:

    wvmcl2 you are right. Gallup lists Ron Paul as the one they polled rather than Rand Paul.

  • Danp on May 26, 2011 10:37 AM:

    wvmc12 was correct in saying it doesn't matter either, just as it didn't matter when people voted for Bush Jr., thinking there was no difference between him and his father.

  • penalcolony on May 26, 2011 10:38 AM:

    "God gave the GOP the rainbow sign,
    No more Ron Paul, Rand next time . . ."

  • Anonymous on May 26, 2011 10:39 AM:

    As much as it pains me to say it, I think a Perry/Palin or Palin/Perry ticket would give Obama a run for his money. I keep saying this - Rick Perry guarantees the GOP the Texas electoral votes - a huge chunk. And if those two get elected....>

    Perry is disliked in TX. The reason why he wins, is b/c he bribes someone to run to split the vote 3 ways, and Dems are just unorganized in the state. He will not have the same luxury running for President. Also, what blue states will he win? He wont win Ohio or Florida. What scares me is that the Repub will have Rubio run as VP thus changing the dynamics of the Latino votes. I called it first

  • boffo on May 26, 2011 10:44 AM:

    I've always thought Cain had the potential to be more of a factor than the Beltway is willing to acknowledge. Prior to the SC debate, there was grassroots buzz for him; the buzz grew louder after he dominated -- according to Luntz's focus group -- the debate.

    At some point, people should face the facts: The guy speaks the Tea Party's language and throws a great deal of red meat (i.e., over-the-top & absurd attacks) to the right wingers. He's not gonna go away just because the "lamestream" media ignores him. In fact, that may only make him even more of a contender.

    It will be interesting to see what happens to his support if Palin & Bachmann run.

  • MAE on May 26, 2011 10:45 AM:

    I wonder how many of the poll respondents are confusing Herman Cain and John McCain?

  • hells littlest angel on May 26, 2011 10:50 AM:

    Cain in 2012! A balanced budget or your pizza is free!

  • c u n d gulag on May 26, 2011 10:51 AM:

    Sorry, but I beat you to the Rubio as VP thingy last year.
    And he will be one of the top candidates, after Jeb, in '16 and '20.

  • berttheclock on May 26, 2011 10:59 AM:

    Steve, you really must get out more. This was a poll directed at RepuGs. Herman Cain has been on FAUX several times, this year. He was on "Fox and Friends" on January 25. Then, he appeared on FAUX on March 28th, April 25 on "Common Cents", on the so-called FAUX sponsored debate from South Carolina where he was called the winner by FAUX, May 21st for a "Who is Herman Cain" video on FAUX and was a Sunday guest for Wallace on "Fox News Sunday". He is well known to the FAUX audience. He may be a stranger to many liberals, but, to the witless FAUX audience, they know him well.

  • TOK on May 26, 2011 11:01 AM:

    Here is an exercise: add up the 'relatively non-crazy' percentages and compare them to the 'peak wingnut' percentages:

    Who to put where may be controversial (where does Gingrich belong...?), but I get the following:

    'relatively non-crazy':
    1. Mitt Romney 17%
    4. Newt Gingrich 9%
    6. Tim Pawlenty 6%
    8. Jon Huntsman 2%

    Peak wingnut:

    2. Sarah Palin 15%
    3. Rand Paul 10%
    5. Herman Cain 8%
    7. Michele Bachmann 5%
    8. Gary Johnson 2%
    8. Rick Santorum 2%

    'peak wingnut' total support - 42%
    'relatively non-crazy' support - 34%

    Conclusion: George Will may end up a very unhappy man.

  • berttheclock on May 26, 2011 11:03 AM:

    On the Wallace show, I thought he was very effective sitting there rolling some steel balls in his right hand. His discussion of the missing strawberries was fascinating.

  • boffo on May 26, 2011 11:06 AM:

    I think Weigel's wrong about Palin. Though most people know her name, most of the 2012 stories have been about how she doesn't poll well against Obama, or stories about Establishment Republicans not wanting her to run, or speculation that she's not even likely to run because she didn't seem to be prepping for a run.

    Because of all that negativity, I think it's significant that she's still tied with Romney, who has announced an exploratory committee, been visiting early states and writing op-eds and giving PowerPoint presentations and taking credit for policies he once opposed... Palin's done none of that.

    A well-placed "lamestream" media, a classic "pallin' around with terrorists," or the always-crowd-pleasing "you betcha'" and she could put Iowa & South Carolina out of play for Romney, and make all those "blue bloods" who oppose her break out in a cold sweat as they worry that she could derail their preferred Romney or Pawlenty -- or whoever isn't Palin.

  • Mimikatz on May 26, 2011 11:14 AM:

    I 'm not sure Rubio has the broad appeal people are assuming. Latinos are not monolithic. Rubio is Cuban-American, which is culturally very different from Mexican-American or Central American-American, the vast majority of Latinos in CA, AZ, NM and TX, and also different from Caribbean-american, which dominates in the East Coast. The most important things to Latinos are education and jobs. Yes, many are socially conservative, but economic issues trump social issues and Rubio is a tea Party economic conservative. Ethnic groups are pretty discerning as voters.

  • slappy magoo on May 26, 2011 11:33 AM:

    What I find interesting is Romney still being #1. I mean, we keep being told Republicans hate Obamacare, which = Romneycare. I don't know if he can win all that many primaries, because it's possible his popularity is concentrated in a few areas where he'd resoundingly win a few primaries, but much weaker throughout the rest of the country, neutralizing his wins. He could be running 52 or 53 percent throughout the Northeast, but at a 4 or 5 in the South and Mid West.

    I have two theories on what's going to go down next year for the GOP nod. Either way, while there may be a "clear winner" in the primary season, it will be a very soft lukewarm victory, someone around whom the GOP - despite their history of getting their crap together for elections and tampering down dissent - can not rally. At that point, either
    a: someone like Paul or Palin will run a third party vanity candidacy, figuring the Republican nominee is destined to fail anyway so really, what do I have to lose?

    or b: The GOP, before the convention, will look for a character who'd be at home in a Kurt Vonnegut novel. Someone in their ranks with precious little experience in the public spotlight, but also precious few skeletons in his or her closet. Someone no one loves, but no one hates. Someone who fits the suit, but had zero ambition, just happy to be a part of the "winning" team. And then they will groom that person to be the nominee, start getting him or her on Fox News to parrot talking points (quite literally, because to be that low-key AND a Republican means you're dumber than a sack of wet hammers). It'll probably be a guy who, by the time they're done, looks like Romney but talks like Huckabee, and has no experience in elected office so there's no "I wiped a child molester's record clean" or "I supported an individual health care mandate" in his closet. And during the convention, the delegates will declare a vote of "No confidence" in their nominee and "draft" this unknown d-bag to run, MAYBE they'd let the person that actually won the primary be the VP (maybe not). And the media will have to scramble to find out anything about this guy - good or bad - to inform the public just what he's about. The GOP party elders are such douches, I think this is the way they'd go, co-opt the party in a "we had to destroy the village in order to save it" way. The big question would then be: Will GOP voters appreciate their input, such as it is, being usurped in such a way? Will they look away, or will they rebel? In elections past, I'd assume they'd suck it up, but those tea partiers are ornery curs...

  • N.Wells on May 26, 2011 11:46 AM:

    TOK on May 26, 2011 11:01 AM:
    'relatively non-crazy':
    1. Mitt Romney � 17%
    4. Newt Gingrich � 9%
    6. Tim Pawlenty � 6%
    8. Jon Huntsman � 2%

    A nation in which Romney, Gingrich, and Pawlenty can be elevated to "relatively non-crazy" is not in a good condition.

  • TOK on May 26, 2011 11:50 AM:

    A nation in which Romney, Gingrich, and Pawlenty can be elevated to "relatively non-crazy" is not in a good condition.

    Agreed. But there you go.

  • T2 on May 26, 2011 11:53 AM:

    Anonymous, I agree that Perry is not well liked (understatement) by a lot of Texans and he's certainly alienated (no pun intended) the Hispanic community (who largely don't vote). Obama won the major cities in TX but was drubbed statewide.....and Perry easily won re-election recently despite running a non-campaign basically hiding both himself and the state of the State's finances-literally-, and shamelessly (he knows no other way) pandering to the Tea Party. He won because TX is still red in the rural areas. He would win TX - any GOPer will win TX, at least in the 2012 cycle. Beyond that, depending on the Hispanic vote, they may be done. That's why I think he'll run. He'll have the electoral votes in the bag. He'd start tomorrow with more electoral votes than any other GOPer if he declared.

  • bdop4 on May 26, 2011 11:53 AM:

    You want to guarantee a massive Democratic turnout in 2012? Nominate a Perry/Palin GOP ticket. Fuck Texas. The South would be the only states they would have any chance of winning.

    Rick Perry and Sarah Palin have a soundbite list that is DAYs long. You wouldn't even have to run the same commercials twice during the entire election.

    Make my freaking day.

  • JEA on May 26, 2011 12:02 PM:

    If Bachmann and Palin are in - along with Santorum - none come close because they ALL appeal to the same democ=graphic: the Christian ultra-right-wing. So they cancel each other out.

    aIf I was Mitt Romney I'd be hoping all three ARE in.

  • Carol Kufeldt on May 26, 2011 12:06 PM:

    This is what you need to know about Herman Cain: he's Tea Party/Evangelical crack. The fact that he's black only adds to his charisma (ie. the GOP has a Black Superstar too, so you can shutup about us being racist and all...)
    as does his willingness to admit not knowing stuff, which makes him more like his intended audience.

  • DAY on May 26, 2011 12:08 PM:

    Whilst we smirk and preen for each other, let us not forget that during much of the last presidential cycle John "Get off my lawn!" McCain and Sarah "GuanoNutz" Palin were tied or ahead of Obama/Biden.

    most of the electorate will not focus until Labor Day, 2012.

  • OKDem on May 26, 2011 1:02 PM:

    Many comments assume the GOP delegates will be chosen by the same method as 2008, with mostly winner take all primaries and caucuses.

    After 2008, the RNC decide to move toward more proportional distribution of the delegates. This gets really complicated and I am wait for Nate Silver to break it down but the result is that the GOP'ers will go into the convention with no candidate with anything close to a majority. That would be very bad for Romney; can you see a path pick up to 10-20% of the Teahadist delegates?

  • berttheclock on May 26, 2011 1:11 PM:

    In May of 1991, GWHB had an approval rating of 77 percent, largely, due to Gulf I.

    Near the end of May 1991, two polls in Florida and California listed the following Democrats as possible.

    Mario Cuomo led the list. He was followed in order by Jesse Jackson, George McGovern, Lloyd Bentson, Al Gore, Dick Gephardt, Paul Tsongas, Doug Wilder, Bob Kerrey, Jay Rockerfeller, Sam Nunn.

    Bill Clinton was next with only one vote from California. He entered the race on October 3, 1991.

  • jdb on May 26, 2011 1:18 PM:

    Someone needs to poll a head-to-head race between Romney and Palin. It could very well boil down to a race between those two. Pass the popcorn.

  • Gretchen on May 26, 2011 1:38 PM:

    I think Palin will hang back, hinting that she's running but not getting into it. They she'll make a 3rd party run, heavy on the twitter and Facebook, where she won't have any suits telling her what to do, she won't have to debate, and she won't have to do the hard work of learning the issues. Then she'll lose, have even more victimhood to complain of, and make more money off books and pricey speeches, which is what she loves best.

  • sduffys on May 26, 2011 2:16 PM:

    The re-pukes that voted for CAIN thought that there were voting for their favorite mayonnaise.

  • Death Panel Truck on May 26, 2011 3:37 PM:

    the former half-term governor is still one of the top GOP presidential candidates at the national level

    We could NEVER get so lucky as to have her as the Republican nominee.

    As much as it pains me to say it, I think a Perry/Palin or Palin/Perry ticket would give Obama a run for his money. I keep saying this - Rick Perry guarantees the GOP the Texas electoral votes - a huge chunk

    Umm...you DO know that Texas hasn't voted Democratic since Jimmy Carter in 1976, right?