Almost a year after his election as President, Barack Obama continues to lead his most likely 2012 rivals in hypothetical contests for reelection.
Obama leads Mike Huckabee 47-43, Mitt Romney 48-40, Sarah Palin 52-40, and Tim Pawlenty 50-30.
This is the seventh time PPP has conducted this poll and the seventh time Huckabee has polled closest to Obama. Speaking to the weakness of the field of potential Republican candidates he's the only with a positive favorability rating and even then it's only 33/29.
Huckabee's doing well because he connects better than the other GOP hopefuls with voters in the Midwest and South. For instance while Romney, Palin, and Pawlenty trail by 9, 17, and 18 points respectively in the Midwest Huckabee is down by just 3, something that could be a good omen for his prospects of again winning the Iowa primary as he did in 2008.
Romney is actually the most popular of the Republican candidates with independents, sporting a 38/28 favorability rating with them and holding Obama to just a 41-40 lead. One thing he'll probably have to contend with to a greater extent if he gets the 2012 nomination is his religion- 34% of respondents say they have an unfavorable opinion of it to 21% who look on it positively.
Palin's numbers have been somewhat mystifying over the last four months. Immediately after her resignation they actually improved to a positive 47/45 favorability rating. Since then though they've plummeted even with her largely out of the public eye and only 36% of voters have a favorable view of her with 51% holding a negative one. She has by far the worst numbers with both Democrats and independents.
Somewhat counterintuitively the best news in this poll might be for Tim Pawlenty. Only 27% of respondents have an opinion of him and it breaks down negatively, 16/11. He trails Obama by the widest margin. But with all of the better known Republican candidates looking pretty weak the door is really open for someone like him to step in and have a big impact on this race. No one expected Barack Obama to be the Democrats' 2008 nominee at this time four years ago, and the best hope for Republicans in 2012 may be to move beyond the Huckabee/Palin/Romney trio that all has the loser stench from last year.
Full results here