PPP's newest batch of 2012 Republican primary polls conducted right before last week's election finds Mitt Romney ahead in the critical early state of Florida, Tim Pawlenty surprisingly weak in his home state of Minnesota, and Sarah Palin posting leads in Texas, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Maine.
The most important state to the nomination process on this list is Florida and there Romney's ahead with 28% to 22% for Palin and 15% for Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee. It should be noted that although Romney does have the lead, it's a much less lofty one than what he posted in a March PPP poll of the state when he had 44%. The only other candidates included in that poll were Palin and Huckabee and we're finding more and more as we do these polls that when new folks are added into the mix it tends to hurt Romney more than anyone else. His support is less solid than Palin's and Huckabee's so even though he looks like a very nominal front runner at this point, he's also the candidate most likely to see his support collapse as things heat up.
Tim Pawlenty leads the field in his home state of Minnesota but his performance is surprisingly weak. He gets 19% with Palin right on his heels at 18%, Huckabee at 14%, and Gingrich and Romney each getting 11%. These numbers are reflective of the overall trouble we found for Pawlenty at home in our final preelection poll of the state- his approval rating was under water and voters overwhelmingly said they didn't think he should run for President. Partially because of Pawlenty's declining popularity Democrats seem to have picked up the Governor's office there in an otherwise awful year for the party. Palin actually leads Pawlenty 20-18 with conservatives but the Governor leads overall thanks to a 27-10 advantage with moderates. It is no coincidence that Romney is in the basement in this state- we've found several places now that where Pawlenty is unusually strong the victim seems to be Romney because of a greater split in the vote among GOP centrists.
Palin holds small leads in the remaining states. Most noteworthy is her strength in Texas and West Virginia, which suggests a bid from her could really hurt Mike Huckabee in the South. In Texas she gets 22% to 20% for Huckabee and 15% for both Gingrich and Romney. In West Virginia she's at 25% to 22% for Huckabee and again 15% for both Gingrich and Romney. These margins are obviously very close but they nevertheless pose trouble for Huckabee and perhaps even more so Gingrich if she ends up making a bad because strength in the South would be vital to either of their prospects.
Romney may not have a complete strangle hold on New England- Palin gets 23% in Maine to 18% for Romney, 16% for Huckabee, and 14% for Gingrich. Those numbers should give folks who think there's no chance Maine Republicans would nominate someone far right against Olympia Snowe in 2012 second thoughts. And finally Palin gets 18% in Wisconsin to 15% for Huckabee, 14% for Gingrich, and 12% for Romney. Pawlenty has his best non-Minnesota performance so far at 8%, not surprising given that it's right next door. And Pawlenty's unusually strong Wisconsin number helps to explain Romney's unusually weak Wisconsin number.
We've now released these polls in 12 states- Romney has led in 5 (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, New Hampshire), Palin in 4 (Maine, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin), Huckabee in 2 (Illinois, Pennsylvania), and Pawlenty in 1 (Minnesota.) We'll have the final batch of six polls (Alaska, Kentucky, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Washington) out early next week.
Full results here