Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney are each the top choice of 18% of New Jersey Republicans to be the party's nominee for President next year. Newt Gingrich at 15% and Sarah Palin at 14% are right behind with Ron Paul leading the second tier at 8%, followed by Tim Pawlenty with 4%, Mitch Daniels with 3%, and John Thune with 2%.
New Jersey may or may not end up being important to the Republican nomination process but either way this continues the trend in our recent 2012 polling...more good news for Huckabee, more bad news for Romney. If there's anywhere that Romney should really be strong it's the northeast but he's polling ten points behind the 28% he got there in 2008. Huckabee's peformance meanwhile shows strength for him outside his home base in the South and it's ten points better than the 8% he got there last time around.
In addition to its geography New Jersey also ought to be a good state for Romney because it has one of the more moderate Republican electorates in the country. In most states we've been polling more than 70% of GOP primary voters describe themselves as conservatives but it's only 60% in New Jersey. But Romney can't take advantage of that because he's in fourth place with conservatives at 14% behind Huckabee's 21%, Gingrich's 17%, and Palin's 16%. Romney is indeed way up with moderates at 24% with no one else doing any better than 13%. But that's only enough to balance out his poor performance with conservatives relative to Huckabee. Romney's really in trouble for next year if he can't do a lot to improve his standing with the right wing of the party over the course of 2011.
Meanwhile Republicans in the state are pretty sold on having Thomas Kean Jr. as their nominee for Senate next year. 42% say they'd like him to be their candidate compared to 30% who pick Lou Dobbs and only 7% who pick Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno. 6% say they would want someone else and 15% are unsure. Kean has a 30 point lead over Dobbs with moderates but only a two point advantage over him with folks describing themselves as conservatives. Given the moderate profile of the Kean family he seems like a Republican who could face some trouble with the Tea Party in a primary, even if their standard bearer ends up being someone a lot less well known than Dobbs.
Full results here