Barack Obama leads all of his potential Republican opponents in hypothetical 2012 match ups, and it's becoming increasingly clear from this monthly poll that there are two tiers of GOP candidates when it comes to electability.
Polling close to Obama are Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. The President leads Huckabee 46-44 and Romney 45-42. They both do a good job of consolidating the GOP vote and holding a solid advantage with independents.
Doing less well are Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and Ron Paul. Obama has a 47-39 advantage over Gingrich, a 50-41 against Palin, and 46-36 edge matched against Paul.
One thing that's very interesting about these numbers is that Ron Paul is the most popular out of the whole group with independents. They see him favorably by a 35/25 margin. The only other White House hopeful on positive ground with them is Romney at a +2 spread and they're very negative on the rest: -5 for Huckabee, -16 for Gingrich and Palin, and -17 for Obama. All five of the possible GOP contenders lead Obama with independents, but Paul does so by the widest margin at 46-28.
It has been easy in the past to write Paul off as irrelevant but this anti-politician climate is giving his movement some steam. Paul's going to have an interesting choice in the next year or so. If his goal is really to be President rather than to influence the national dialogue then he should probably keep on trying to win the GOP nomination, as improbable as that might be. But if he wants to guarantee himself a major role in the 2012 contest he should run as a third party candidate instead. Polling at 5-10% nationally in the general election would get his views a much wider airing than just trudging along through the Republican nomination process and hoping to get 10-15% in each primary.
The overall takeaway from these numbers? Obama is certainly weaker than in November 2008 since Huckabee and Romney do better against him than John McCain did, but continuing to lead all his potential opponents in this political climate isn't bad.
Full results here