Thursday, January 27, 2011

GOP contenders weak even in West Virginia

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


Unknown said...

You keep assuming that nothing's going to change for the Republican nominee. Whoever that is will undoubtably be more popular than these candidates are now, because Republicans and some independents will have voted for them. Secondarily, Republicans and some independents who don't like Palin or Gingrich will still vote for them. John McCain wasn't well liked by a lot of Republicans, but still got their vote.

The Presidential election is mostly a referendum on the incumbent. Obama's popularity matters.

Anonymous said...

Since when is West Virginia more conservative than Texas? Yikes

I can't help but suspect that race is playing a role here.

Alex from San Francisco said...

Just as an idea, but the next time you do a national poll of the 2012 elections, you should include George Bush as your "wild card" Republican.

It would give a good baseline indication of the current GOP front runners. If they're polling close to Bush (or even worse) it would indicate that they personally are very weak and that voters would be more open to a different Republican nominee(as Bush is almost certainly a below-average Republican nominee if he were able to run again), but if they are polling better than him (with his relatively low popularity) it would suggest that voters just don't like the Republicans (compared to Obama anyway).

NRH said...

With named opponents with high name recognition like Gingrich, Huckabee, Palin, and Romney, there's much less ability for a contender to build a new, positive image that can win over large swaths of voters. If PPP was testing Obama against, say, Thune, who isn't well-known nationally, then that argument would hold up. When the polling is with two people who are already well-known, though, the campaign has a lot less room for the challenger to grow.

j sampsell said...

Yet another poll that shows Huckabee is a (the) strong contender to beat Obama in 2012. But you see the need to spin it as the Republicans must find some 2nd tier candidate to emerge. Uh...DUH!!! Huckabee IS the contender that Republicans need. Face the obvious facts your polls point out. Huckabee is the conservative leader that can unite the party and take back the White House. No further searching is needed! Huckabee in 2012.

The Mexican-American Conservative said...

As long as Obama doesn't win, I'm okay. Hopefully Huckabee and Romney start picking up in the polls, they'd both be great candidates on the ballot.

Anonymous said...

"I can't help but suspect that race is playing a role here."

That and the fact that most of the Democrats aren't really Democrats. They're DINOs, quite literally. About 20-30% of them, basically wiping out what looks like a huge Democratic registration advantage. Plus, the independents go strongly for the Republicans, so most of them aren't really independent.

Colored Opinions said...

It looks like Mitt Romney is not learning anything from his failed white house bid in 2008. He can offcourse continue to ignore these numbers, blame it on the stupidity of the Republican base or bad weather. George W. Bush learned from his father's failed bid and made sure he distanced himself cosmetically from the Republican establishment to which in reality he belonged. I am however not so sure the Republican base can be fooled twice.

Jonny V said...

I think Obama could beat Palin in WV... Here's hoping he gets a chance to!

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