When PPP first polled Florida Republicans in March about who they wanted as their 2012 nominee 52% of them picked Mitt Romney when given the choices of him, Mike Huckabee (who got 21%), and Sarah Palin (who received 18%).
When PPP next asked Florida Republicans about 2012 in July Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul's names were added into the mix and although Romney maintained the lead it wasn't nearly as strong. He was at 31%, followed by Palin and Gingrich at 23%, Huckabee at 15%, and Paul at 6%.
When PPP asked about it in late October even more names were in the pool and Romney's support declined even further. He was down to 28% with Palin at 22%, Huckabee and Gingrich at 15%, and a variety of other Republicans combining for 8%.
Now Romney's lead in Florida is completely gone. The poll we did last week found him at only 21%, behind Huckabee's 23%, with Gingrich at 18%, Palin at 13%, and others combining for a total of 15%.
Why has Romney fallen so far? I think part of the reason he polled so well earlier in the year is that he was the anti-Palin. Palin's favorability numbers with GOP voters in Florida are a good deal worse than they are most places and Romney did well in those earlier surveys as one of the few named alternatives to her. As more response options were provided in later polls the anti-Palin sentiment was diffused across several candidates and Romney's mile wide but inch deep support declined further and further and further to where it is now.
Romney's chances at the Republican nomination really might be contingent on a small pool of candidates running- the more 'reasonable' folks there are in the mix the worse Romney does because he doesn't have a real solid base of support. If there are 5 'competent' folks who have been Governors or Senators running it may be hard for any of them to break out as a strong alternative to Palin should she make the race.
The full Florida numbers are here
In North Carolina we see a good old log jam with Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin tied at 21%, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney tied at 18%, and the rest of the Republicans combining for 12%. This is another state where Romney's conservative problem rears its head. He has a strong advantage with moderates as 30% of them say he's their top choice with none of the other Republicans rising above 15%. But he posts yet another fourth place finish with conservatives at only 14%, with Palin at 24%, Gingrich at 22%, and Huckabee at only 19%.
North Carolina numbers here