West Virginia's one of the most conservative states in the country. But even there voters don't like any of the leading Republican candidates for President, with the exception of Mike Huckabee. It's yet another sign that the current front runners have limited appeal and that the party might be better off with someone else emerging from the pack of currently second tier candidates as their nominee next year.
Huckabee's favorability in the state is a 48/27 spread. But the rest of the pack all have negative favorability ratings. Mitt Romney's at 34/37, Sarah Palin's at 41/47, and Newt Gingrich is at 33/43.
Of course none of the Republicans are nearly as unpopular as Barack Obama in the state and there doesn't appear to be any real chance of Democrats returning it to its former blue state status in 2012. Only 34% of voters approve of the job Obama's doing to 58% who disapprove. Obama's complete lack of support with Republicans and independents is no surprise, but even with Democrats his approval breaks down only as a 50/40 spread, certainly the worst numbers we've found for him within his own party anywhere in the country. That's a reflection of West Virginia having probably the most conservative group of Democratic voters anywhere in the country.
Still because the GOP candidates are so weak Obama either matches or exceeds his performance from 2008 against 3 of his top 4 potential competitors. Against Romney he trails by 13 points at 50-37, identical to his margin of defeat against John McCain in the state. He improves slightly on last time against Gingrich, trailing by 10 points at 49-39. And West Virginia comes close to earning swing state status if Palin's the nominee- Obama trails her by just 4 points at 46-42. Only Huckabee can take advantage of the President's unpopularity in the state and build on the Republican margin of victory from 2008, leading Obama by 18 points at 54-36.
Whoever the GOP Presidential nominee is in 2012 will doubtless carry West Virginia. But the numbers in the state still tell us something- that as rough as the sailing's been for Democrats over the last couple years none of the Republican front runners, with the possible exception of Huckabee, can really build on the party's performance from 2008. That's bad news for their hopes of knocking off Obama.
Full results here