Washington (CNN) – His party got its clock cleaned in Tuesday's midterm elections, but according to a new national poll President Obama remains competitive in hypothetical 2012 presidential election matchups, especially against Sarah Palin.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Thursday also indicates that at the unofficial start of the race for the Republican presidential nomination, the field of possible contenders appears wide open with no front-runner.
According to the poll, 21 percent of Republicans say they would most likely support former Arkansas Gov. and 2008 GOP White House candidate Mike Huckabee for their party's 2012 presidential nomination, with 20 percent saying they'd back former Massachusetts Gov. and 2008 Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, 14 percent supporting Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee, and 12 percent backing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia.
The remaining candidates whose names were asked in the question were all in single digits, led by Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who also ran for the GOP presidential nomination the last time around, followed by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana at 3 percent, and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania at 2 percent.
The poll's release comes as Santorum visits New Hampshire to give a speech about the midterm election results and the future of the Republican party. No one has yet to announce a bid for the GOP nomination.
In a possible general election showdown, Obama leads Palin 52-44 percent among all registered voters.
"Looking ahead to 2012, it may be too early to count Barack Obama out, particularly if Sarah Palin is his opponent," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "The former Alaska governor gets a lot of attention, but she is in third place when Republicans are asked to pick a presidential nominee, and in a hypothetical matchup with Obama she is arguably the weakest candidate of the top-tier GOP hopefuls."
In a hypothetical 2012 matchup, Huckabee leads Obama 52 – 44 percent, while Romney has a 50-45 point advantage, which is within the poll's sampling error. Obama hold a 49-47 percent margin over Gingrich.
The poll indicates that four in 10 have a favorable opinion of Palin, with nearly half saying they have an unfavorable view. Romney has a 36 percent favorable rating and a 29 percent unfavorable rating, with 35 percent unsure. Forty-two percent say they see Huckabee in a positive light, with 26 percent saying they hold a negative view and just over three in 10 are unsure. Gingrich has 32 percent favorable rating, with four in 10 saying they have an unfavorable view, and 28 percent unsure.
On the Democratic side, nearly three-quarters of Democrats say they want to see the party renominate Obama in 2012. Why does that matter?
"No incumbent president has faced a significant primary challenge and gone on to win re-election in November. Contested primaries make incumbents look weak and overly-political, and prevent the incumbent from building up goodwill while the opposition party candidates are fighting among themselves," Holland added.
Avoiding a primary challenge won't guarantee Obama victory in November 2012, but the fact that 73 percent of Democrats want to see the party renominate Obama may scare off any Democrats who are contemplating a run against him, and that gets him one step closer to a second term.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll was conducted October 27-30, before the midterm elections, with 921 registered voters, including 500 respondents who describe themselves and Republicans or independents who lean Republican, and 453 respondents who describe themselves as Democrats or independents who lean Democratic, questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.
CNN also conducted exit polls on election day in the some of the states that vote first in the presidential primary calendar. In Iowa, 21 percent of Republicans questioned as they exited the voting booth said that Romney was their likely choice in the 2012 Iowa caucuses, with Huckabee also at 21 percent, Palin at 18 percent, Gingrich at 7 percent and one in five saying they would support another possible candidate.
In New Hampshire, 39 percent of Republicans say that Romney is their likely choice in the state's primary, with Palin at 18 percent, Huckabee at 11 percent, Gingrich at eight percent and 19 percent saying they would back another possible contender.
Twenty-five percent of South Carolina Republicans say Palin would be their likely primary choice, followed by Huckabee at 24 percent, Romney at 21 percent and Gingrich at 10 percent.
–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.
The competition between the President vs. Sarah reminds me very much that one of Harry Reid vs. Sherry Angle. The result will also not differ.
I hope, I hope, I hope... that Palin will run in 2012 and destroy the Republican Party. The Republicans, and in particular George Bush, caused all these problems we now have, in 96 months, and the GOP wants Obama to fix them in 18 months. What hubris!!!!! What hypocrisy!!!!! Go, Sarah!!! Run for President, ruin the Republicans and let's get the Democrats in power so needed social programs can be instituted!!!!!
I'll vote for her . . . in an open primary, that is.
Obama vs. Palin in 2012?
Even the fox propaganda network and all the chambers money couldn't sway enough voters to palins side – there's too many of us that love our country to put it in the hands of an intellectually challeged adolescent like palin.
I guess this what the Republicans mean by "taking back America". Rimney' Huckabee & Palin? The President has NOTHING to worry about
I gues the President has nothing to worry about if that's the. BEST the republicans have to offer
not going to happen... all she is going to do is make millions of dollars thanks to the media....all she is doing is selling soap...
Sarah Palin is not the only Republican who might run for president.
However, if the who'd-you-rather choice is Palin or Obama, I'll take Palin.
Or any other Republican.
Any day of the year.
None of the above will be the contender,it will be an unknown.In the mean time they will attack this President until 2012 !
After 2 years of watching the Republicans allow Americans to suffer even more than they already have Obama will walk back into the White House. That group is not as good when they have to offer more than sound bites. The reason they don't answer questions when running is because they can't explain themselves without scaring everyone. When you govern you have to explain what you're going to do and then the picture won't be so pretty. Palin will make sure that whoever the republican nominee is is damaged goods by the time the general election comes around. It will be even better for the Democrats if she is the nominee.
OMG, this would be the laugh made around the world! Aren't we embarrassed enough that our media takes this woman seriously as a contender? The media needs to find another focus, yet we continue to get sucked in.....
If this bimbo runs against our President, then I can't wait for their first debate!!!
I just have two questions about your poll.
Why is it that when Obama goes to a rally
in recent history his crowds are thousands
smaller than Palin's?
Why did most of Obama's candidates he tried
to help in the election lose and most of Palin's
candidates she tried to help win?
The media is already trying to form opinions
in people's minds to turn them away from
Palin two years out from the next election.
Sounds like somebody is attempting to downplay
Palin's popularity with Americans.
It is two years until the next election, CNN give us a break and put away your polling stories for at least a year. It is only because of the 24/7/365 voracious news cycle that has been created by cable news that the GOP was successful in running a two year neagativity compaign that resulted in the American sheep putting them back in power in the House. Let's see the news dissect ever word and head movement made by Big Jim Boehner and his gang of naysayers now that they have to actutally do something besides say "no", "socialism", "lower taxes' and "cut spending". Lets see the list of things you are going to cut Boehner, I am sure that you and you [party have had plenty of time to compile it.
Palin running would be a dream come true for President Obama.
The United States of America would not support this incompetent, ego mainiac for any position of leadership, as they proved iin previous election.
CNN, why will you not listen to the bloggers on how sick we are of your pushing this radical down our throats??
Yes, please. GOP nominate Sarah "Dimwit" Palin for President in 2012. I want to see her and "just the community organizer" in debates. That will be the most entertaining political event in history.
If it's Palin in 2012 then the foreign money coming to the US Chamber of Commerce (trademark) would be drop in the bucket as the whole world would chip in to stop her and her reckless opinions, except for the Taliban, warlords, and drug lords who agree with her theocratic totalitarian perspective.
I'll take any conservative over the clown we have now.
I can't wait to see this. She will stir up all the hate and divisiveness you could possibly imagine. Will there be "Palin Youth" at her rallies in brown shirts? It almost came to that in 2008. She kept saying she was not responsible then for what people say at her rallies but she sure didn't try to disuade anyone from the hate speech and the racist remarks.
I will never, ever forgive McCain for inficting this stain upon America. Without him she would have been a one term politician from a state no one thinks about and would have faded into the sunset. He gave her a platform to expound her hate and bile and mobilize her jack booted followers. America has much to fear from this woman and her cohorts.
Are you seriously comparing president Obama with Sarah Palin? I cannot believe people even poll such a thing? Who is Sarah palin....a big talking head?
You would have to be extremely stupid and racist or both to vote for this stupid, fraudulent white woman over Obama.
How many of you stupid Americans fit that category.
Oh please! Please please PLEASE let it be Palin! She's already unelectable.
The good thing about a campaign between Obama and Palin is it would demonstrate how utterly unprepared she is to lead anything. The bad thing the sound of her voice would be mind-numbing.
She can't win and most republicans know that.
Sarah Palin for President. Nothing would energize more people to vote for Obama than this!
Not according to Karl Rove.