We've never found her leading one of our state polls until now but Michele Bachmann's been on fire for the last two weeks and we find her at the top of the GOP field in both Oregon and Montana when Sarah Palin's not included. That's just more indication that if Palin ends up not running Bachmann will pretty instantaneously vault to co-front runner status with Mitt Romney, provided she can continue her current momentum.
In Oregon Bachmann gets 29% to 28% for Romney, 10% for Ron Paul, 9% for Newt Gingrich, 7% for Herman Cain, 6% for Tim Pawlenty, and 2% for Jon Huntsman. In Montana she leads with 25% to 22% for Romney, 11% for Gingrich, 10% for Paul, 9% for Pawlenty,8% for Cain, and 4% for Huntsman.
In both states Bachmann's support is built on strong support from the far right. In Oregon moderates prefer Romney over her by a 39-15 margin and 'somewhat conservatives' ones favor him by a 29-22 margin as well. But with 'very conservative' voters, which constitute the largest share of the primary electorate at 44%, Bachmann leads 37-26 and that fuels her small overall lead. It's a similar story in Montana. Romney leads 21-13 with moderates and 26-22 with 'somewhat conservative' voters. But Bachmann is up 34-19 with 'very conservative' voters and with their constituting 39% of Republican voters that gives her the upper hand overall.
Obviously this is just two states but these numbers speak to the possibility for a two way race between Romney and Bachmann if Palin stays out of the field. They're 11 points clear of anyone else in Montana and 18 points ahead of anyone else in Oregon. Herman Cain's momentum appears to have stalled after a tremendous May and early June, Pawlenty and Huntsman still haven't gotten off the ground, Gingrich doesn't appear likely ever to return to his former level of support, and Paul, well, he's probably stuck around 10% in perpetuity.
Oregon provides a good example of why Romney should probably want Palin to run, in order to split up the vote of the far right. With Palin included there he gets 28% to 18% for Bachmann, 16% for Palin, 9% for Paul, 8% for Cain, 6% for Gingrich and Pawlenty, and 0% for Huntsman. Without Palin included Bachmann picks up 11 points with Romney staying right in place. There's an argument that Palin's entry is the best possible thing that could happen to Romney's prospects over the next few months.
In Montana Palin actually leads when she's included with 20% t0 18% for Bachmann, 17% for Romney, 9% for Gingrich and Paul, 8% for Cain, 7% for Pawlenty, and 4% for Huntsman. In both Montana and Oregon Palin has easily the best net favorability of any of the GOP contenders...she'll be a force if she runs...it's just a very big if.
Full results here