For most of our 2012 Republican polling up until a month ago we were just asking voters to choose between Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney. At that time we decided to add Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul into the mix. The main thing that's changed since then? Mitt Romney's standing.
On our first national poll with all five candidates included Romney went from 33% to 23%, losing 30% of his support. Huckabee went from 27% to 25%, losing only 7% of his support and Palin went from 23% to 20%, just 13% of her support.
We also have before and after comparisons in North Carolina and Colorado. In NC Romney went from 27% to 15%, losing 44% of his support. Meanwhile Huckabee and Palin went from being tied at 30% to tied at 22%, each losing 27% of their support. (Newt Gingrich has 16% and Ron Paul has 8%.)
Romney also lost much more of his support than the other two in Colorado. He went from 44% to 25% when Gingrich and Paul were thrown in, losing 43% of his support. Meanwhile Palin and Huckabee actually improved their positions, with the former going from 25% to 29% and the latter from 17% to 18%.
It's WAY too early for this kind of analysis but on a slow moving Friday afternoon here's my takeaway:
Romney's support is relatively weak and it looks like a lot of his strong standing on our three way polls with him, Palin, and Huckabee may have been more of an anti-Huckabee/Palin thing than a pro-Romney thing. Once more additional choices were offered Romney's support declined at a rapid rate.
Romney's best chance for the nomination will be if the leading trio of potential GOP candidates really remains the leading trio of potential GOP candidates. If Gingrich really gets in it, or a Tim Pawlenty or John Thune or Mitch Daniels catches fire that's more likely to hurt Romney than anybody else. Huckabee and Palin have more solid bases of support.