Sarah Palin's biggest obstacle to the White House may not be her remarkable level of unpopularity with Democrats and independents. Her more immediate problem is that she simply doesn't have much support in the vital early Republican states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and Florida.
Palin does well in national polls on the GOP nomination contest, including a first place finish on our most recent one. But if those sorts of polls determined the nominee Hillary Clinton would most likely be in the White House now. The momentum or lack thereof that candidates get out of the early contests is often what causes their bids to succeed or fail and right now she looks quite weak in those places.
In Iowa two different polls this week found that Palin is a distant third in Iowa. We found her 15 points behind Mike Huckabee with 15% support and Neighborhood Research found her 13 points behind Huckabee with only 11% support. In New Hampshire our most recent poll found her in a tie for third place at 10% with Newt Gingrich, 30 points behind Mitt Romney. A Magellan Strategies poll last week found her with a similarly larger deficit, in second place at 16%, 23 points behind Romney. In Nevada she's been in second place in one of our recent surveys and in third place in another, but at any rate she's running double digits behind Romney. And in Florida our most recent poll found her in a distant fourth place at only 13%, 10 points behind Huckabee, 8 behind Romney, and 5 behind Gingrich.
Now certainly the history of Presidential campaigns is full of people who started well back in the polling gaining momentum and rising to the top in the end. But those tend to be folks who start out with very low name recognition and gain more and more ground as they become better known. Palin's already maxed out on name recognition and it's kind of hard to imagine her winning over very many folks who don't already support her.
If Mike Huckabee doesn't run that will definitely help Palin in these early states but regardless of that she has a lot of work to do in them if she really ends up making a bid for the White House.