Is it too early to poll Barack Obama against potential opponents in 2012? Sure. But that doesn't mean people don't find it interesting, and it gives us something to track against moving forward so here goes:
On our newest national survey we looked at Obama against Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney.
Huckabee fares the best of the top Republican contenders at this point in time, trailing Obama 49-42. That margin is basically the same as what Obama won by against John McCain in November. Huckabee also has the best favorability numbers of the Republican quartet at 42/34. Even after running for President last year a quarter of the country doesn't have an opinion about him one way or the other.
Sarah Palin's numbers are an interesting conundrum. She easily has the best favorability among Republicans voters, with 76% saying they have a positive opinion of her. The other three range from 60-67 with the party base. But she also has the largest percentage of GOP voters- 21%- who say they would vote for Obama if she ended up being the party nominee. So for the folks in the party who don't like her that feeling is strong enough they'd rather vote for a Democrat. It adds up to a 12 point deficit for her, 53-41. Overall the electorate has a negative opinion of Palin, 42/49.
The low 60% favorability rating among GOP voters belongs to Mitt Romney, certainly an indication that securing the nomination is likely to once again be a struggle for him. He is viewed favorably by the largest numbers of Democrats for any of the Republican candidates in the survey, at 27%. He trails Obama 50-39.
The weakest of the potential Republicans at this very early stage is Newt Gingrich, who despite being out of the national spotlight for ten years still appears to have a lot of people who don't think much of him. 36% of voters in the country have a favorable opinion of him with 44% saying it's unfavorable. It's interesting that more voters have a take one way or the other on Gingrich than on Huckabee and Romney who ran for President just last year. Gingrich earned his fame as a partisan warrior and perhaps as a result of that he gets the lowest level of crossover popularity from Democrats, as only 15% of them say they view him positively.
Obama's approval is at 53% with 41% disapproving. Those might not be as good as some of his numbers earlier in the year but he's certainly in solid shape politically overall.
Full results here.