PPP's first national poll looking at the Republican Presidential race since Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump announced they wouldn't run finds Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin in a tie at the top with 16% each. Tim Pawlenty at 13% and Herman Cain at 12% are also in double digits with Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul each at 9%, and Jon Huntsman at 4% rounding out the field.
Romney's support is built on moderate and center right Republicans, while Palin's winning the most conservative faction of the party. With moderates Romney's at 26% with only Pawlenty at 15% also reaching double digits and Palin in third at 8%. With 'somewhat conservative' voters Romney likewise leads with 19% to 15% each for Pawlenty and Palin. But with voters identifying as 'very conservative' Romney finds himself well back in 5th place at 11% with Palin leading the way at 20%, followed by Cain at 15%, Bachmann at 13%, and Pawlenty at 12%.
If Palin doesn't run Romney leads with 20% to 13% each for Gingrich, Bachmann, and Pawlenty, 12% for Cain, and 11% for Paul. It may seem surprising that Palin not running would take Romney from a tie to a 7 point lead. But that's because most of Palin's support goes to people who poll at only single digits when she's in the picture. 22% of Palin voters say they would go for Bachmann, 17% to Gingrich, and 15% each to Romney and Paul. Cain and Pawlenty, already in double digits even with Palin in the field, each pick up only 2% of her supporters so Romney gains ground on them with her out of the picture.
This poll provides more evidence for the collapse of Newt Gingrich. In addition to having just single digit support more primary voters (44%) now express an unfavorable opinion of him than have a positive one (39%).
One game changer that could help Romney and Pawlenty's prospects for the nomination? The Rapture. 18% of GOP primary voters believe it will occur in their lifetimes and 31% of them support Palin to 15% for Romney, 11% for Cain and Gingrich, and 10% for Pawlenty. Let's say that Harold Camping's revised projection of October for the event comes true and that all the Republicans who think it's coming go up. With those voters taken out of the equation Romney leads with 16% while Pawlenty moves into second at 14%, and Palin and Cain tie for 3rd at 13% each.
Although only 18% of Republican voters think the Rapture will occur in their lifetimes, a whooping 72% of them think they would be taken up in the event that it did occur. If Romney was still here after that his nomination prospects would really be enhanced- with the 28% of GOP voters who either think they would not go up or are unsure Romney gets 23% to 13% for Pawlenty, 11% for Paul and Cain, and 10% for Palin and Bachmann.
It would be a Pyrrhic victory for him though because as our general election numbers showed Barack Obama would be pretty much unstoppable for reelection if everyone who thought they were going in the Rapture was right about it.
Full results here