Our first national look at who Republicans would prefer as their 2012 Presidential nominee confirms the wide open nature of the field. The leading candidates are all within the margin of error of each other, with Mitt Romney leading at 28% followed by Mike Huckabee at 24% and Sarah Palin at 23%. Ron Paul pulls 11%, 9% say they're undecided, and 6% say their preference would be someone else.
Romney's lead speaks to the fact that moderates could actually pick the GOP nominee in 2012. That's because there's gridlock among conservatives about who their preferred candidate is. Huckabee leads with 28% to 27% for Palin and 25% for Romney. But the former Massachusetts Governor has a large advantage with moderates, getting 35% to 17% for Palin and 16% for Huckabee. That significant edge with them gives him the overall lead.
Palin is the most popular candidate with self identified Republican voters, as 69% have a favorable opinion of her compared to 58% for Romney and 54% for Huckabee. Palin's problem is that the people who like her aren't necessarily committed to voting for her. Only 32% of folks with a positive opinion of her say she would be their choice for the nomination. By comparison 45% of Republicans who view Romney favorably support him and 39% with a positive take on Huckabee say they would vote for him.
One of the things holding Palin back may be electability concerns. 48% of Republican primary voters say the most important thing is getting a nominee who can beat Barack Obama, and with those people Palin lags well behind at 15% to 32% for Romney and 27% for Huckabee. 42% say the most important thing is getting a candidate who's conservative on every issue and Palin does lead with those folks at 36% to 24% each for Huckabee and Romney.
The main takeaway from these numbers? There continues to not really be a Republican front runner.
Full results here