The 18 state level polls we released over the last week on the 2012 GOP nomination contest confirmed what we already knew- this thing is about as wide open as it could be.
Averaged across the states we looked at Mitt Romney gets 19.5%, Sarah Palin gets 17.9%, Mike Huckabee gets 17.1%, and Newt Gingrich gets 15.7%. That's about as close as it could be among the front runners, and the fact that the biggest winner with 19.6% was someone else/undecided makes it clear that there's plenty of room for someone outside the current top tier of potential candidates to become the GOP standard bearer.
In only 3 of the states we looked at did anyone manage to post a double digit lead- that was Romney in Connecticut, Nevada, and New Hampshire. In just 2 of them did one of the contenders manage to crack 30%- Romney in Nevada and New Hampshire. All of those things taken together point to a Republican nomination fight that is very unpredictable.
A couple other takeaways:
-The interest in a John Thune 2012 bid is pretty clearly confined to inside the Beltway- he averaged less than 1% across these 18 polls. He never got a level of support higher than 2% and the number of states where he got that- 5- was smaller than the number of states where he registered at 0%- 6. He will almost literally have risen from nothing if he somehow snags his party's nomination.
-Tim Pawlenty hurts Mitt Romney. The three states where Pawlenty had his highest levels of support were also the three where Romney had his lowest level of support. In Minnesota where Pawlenty got 19% Romney was at just 11%, in Wisconsin where Pawlenty got 8% Romney only got 12%, and in Illinois where Pawlenty got 8% Romney also got only 11%. Romney already struggles in the South (other than Florida) and it looks like the Midwest could pose trouble for him as well. I'll be interested when we start polling Iowa to see if Pawlenty hurts Romney there as well.