Our fifth monthly national survey matching up Barack Obama against some possible 2012 opponents comes to the same two primary conclusions as the other four:
1) Obama leads all comers
2) Mike Huckabee, at least at this early stage, is the strongest GOP candidate
In this particular iteration of the poll, Huckabee comes the closest to Obama that he has yet, trailing just 47-44. That's tightened since the President led 48-42 a month ago.
Huckabee also has the best overall favorability rating of the Republican quartet we tested, at 45/28.
Huckabee is not the most popular candidate among GOP voters though. While 66% of them have a favorable opinion of him, 72% have a favorable opinion of Sarah Palin.
Palin's overall numbers have seen a pretty steep decline in the last month though. Two July surveys we conducted actually showed her numbers slightly improving from pre-resignation announcement levels, to a 47/45 spread. That's now dropped to 40/49. Among Democrats she's gone from 25% with a favorable opinion of her to 15%, and among independents she's gone from 45% to 37%.
In her head to head contest with Obama, Palin is down 52-38 after her 51-43 deficit a month ago had been the closest we have measured for her to date.
After Huckabee Mitt Romney polls the closest to Obama and also has the second best net favorability rating, at 37/34. He trails 47-40 in a head to head. There continues to be one pretty bad piece of news for him in these polls though, which is that he's the least popular of this quartet with GOP voters. Only 52% have a favorable opinion of him, and that lagging popularity with the overall Republican electorate has become a continuous theme in our 2012 surveys.
Newt Gingrich, seemingly the least likely nominee of the bunch, trails Obama 49-41 and has a 33/42 negative favorability rating.
It's good news for Obama that even as he navigates a difficult period of his Presidency he's still preferred to any of his Republican alternatives. The margins definitely aren't what they were earlier this year though.
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Full results here