August 13th, 2010
12:02 PM ET
13 years ago

CNN Poll: Who's on top in hunt for 2012 GOP nomination?


Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul (left to right) top a list of potential 2012 GOP contenders, according to a new CNN poll.(PHOTO CREDITS: Getty Images)

Manchester, New Hampshire (CNN) - Less than three months before the unofficial start of the next race for the White House, a new national poll suggests there is no frontrunner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

But a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday also indicates that the eventual GOP nominee would have the edge over President Barack Obama if the election were held today.

According to the poll, when asked to choose among a list of nine potential GOP White House hopefuls, 21 percent of Republicans support former Massachusetts Gov. and 2008 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for their party's 2012 nomination, with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at 18 percent. Romney's three point advantage over the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee is within the survey's sampling error.

The poll indicates that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is in third place at 15 percent, one point ahead of former Arkansas Gov. and 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Rep. Ron Paul, who also made a bid for his party's nomination last time around, is at ten percent, with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana at three percent and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania at two percent.

"More than half of all Republicans we questioned consider themselves Tea Party supporters or active members of the Tea Party movement," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Romney tops the list among Tea Party Republicans; Gingrich is next on that list and Palin is in third."

The survey's release comes as Gingrich speaks Friday at the Iowa State Fair, a tradition for presidential hopefuls. Pawlenty stopped by the fair on Thursday. And the poll's release comes one day after Romney headlined a fundraiser for New Hampshire Republicans, his second in the state in the past week.

Of all the possible contenders for the next GOP presidential nomination, Romney appears to have the strongest organization at the moment. According to a spokesman, his political action committee has endorsed over 150 Republican candidates and contributed more than $400,000 to conservative candidates and causes this cycle.

For Democrats, the poll indicates the choice is much clearer, with nearly three-quarters of them saying they would re-nominate Obama if he runs again. Only 57 percent of Democrats said the same thing about President Bill Clinton in 1994, half way through his first term in office.

But according to the survey, if the presidential election were held today, an unnamed Republican candidate would have a 50 to 45 percent advantage over Obama among registered voters.

"That's far from a prediction of an Obama loss in 2012. Bill Clinton faced a 15-point deficit on this question in 1994 and went on to win re-election two years later; the elder George Bush had a 19-point edge the year before the 1992 election and lost," adds Holland.

The poll indicates the standard partisan differences, but among independent voters, Obama trails the GOP candidate by 13 points. The president has a nine point advantage among women voters, with the Republican ahead by 19 points among men. Obama has a 24 point advantage among urban voters, with an eight point deficit among suburban voters and trails by 12 points among rural voters.

Eight in ten people who say they are members or supporters of the Tea Party movement would vote for the Republican candidate over Obama, with six in ten of all Americans who don't support the Tea Party movement saying they would pick Obama.

"The demographics of the Tea Party movement explain that gap," says Holland. "Nearly four in ten white men say they are members or supporters of the Tea Party, compared to 26 percent of white women and 15 percent of non-whites."

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted August 6-10, with 1,009 adult Americans, including 494 Republicans and 458 Democrats, questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

Full results (pdf)

Filed under: 2012 • CNN Polls • GOP • President Obama
soundoff (94 Responses)
  1. boocat

    I don't care who's running. I am not voting anymore, ever again because it just doesn't matter. Once these people get elected they do what they want anyway.

    August 13, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  2. GREG-AZ

    Also results of the midterm elections will have a lot to do with how steep of a hill Obama has to climb. If the GOP gains a majority in either house (which will not be as easy as they would like to think) then that will force the Obama administration to shift most of their policies to gain Republican support. Thus making moderates happy and hopefully ending this overly partisan political environment. I actually HOPE that the GOP wins a majority in the House lets see how they govern for 2 years, I guarantee you they will make the case all the more clear that Obama needs to remain president.

    August 13, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  3. dollarbill

    i love when democrats point out that they have to fix 8 years of republican policies. they must be using fuzzy math because the republicans only controlled the house, senate and wh for 6 years. they voted the republicans out b/c of the iraq war, not the economy. it was 2 years later, with democrats controlling the house and senate, that the economy tanked. funny isn't it? how quickly we forget.

    i also want to remind everyone, no 1 party should have complete control. there should be a checks and balance. whoever controls house and senate, the other party should be in the wh. my opinion. when our country was thriving, a democrat was in the wh and the repubs controlled the house and senate.

    August 13, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  4. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Question, with so many long standing experienced Republicans in Washington it makes one wonder what's stopping them from campaigning for president in 2012. If Palin is the best they can come up with does this mean all those above mentioned Republicans are in fear of being vetted knowing full well Palin isn't qualified.

    August 13, 2010 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  5. opus512

    The key phrase here is "unnamed Republican." As soon as you mention a name, any name, watch the numbers reverse.

    August 13, 2010 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  6. bill


    August 13, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  7. Djinn

    So far, the Greatly Overrated Party has NOthing to put up against an Obama 2nd term. Hopefully, with 2 1/2 more years before a National election, it will become clear that THIS president is the best thing going for America. The GOP whined about Clinton and eventually we had the best economy for years...until we got amBUSHed by "tax cuts for the wealthy" and two off-the-books wars. This time we have seen what "conservatism" looks like carried to its eventual direction and it is BAGGERS, racists, and the Paul/Angle/Buck nut-jobs. Even a moderate Republican won't vote for those mistakes. It is sad, sad state of affairs when Tricky Dick is nostalgia for us.

    August 13, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  8. MN Hockey Mom

    On a local, state and national level – I can guarantee that I will NOT be voting for any Republican!!

    August 13, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  9. marlene

    Worthless polls for 2012 election. More than 2 years and already the media (see CNN Poll) is trying to put out the spin. The spin on anti-incumbent wave hasn't worked out. The spin on the enthusiasm spread will prove hyped this Nov. Words and spin don't influence elections. No wonder the media has such a low trust level with the American people. Marlene in Mich

    August 13, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  10. AEJ

    Grandma Sarah will definitely do the Democratic party well.

    August 13, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  11. Stephanie

    The problems with America is the constant focus on useless polls and being in constant election mode.

    I wonder what the approval ratings are for the media with their constant crystal ball readings, speculations, blithering pundits instead of actually reporting the news in objective, factual terms so viewers can formulate their own opinions.

    Media outlets have become nothing more than corporations; without a reliable source of information democracy is doomed.

    August 13, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  12. Sensible Cape Coral FL

    As a former teacher, it frightens me to death when I realize the huge number of truly STUPID people we have in this country – and they
    V O T E !

    August 13, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  13. The Prof

    They all suck. This republican is severely disappointed with the choices. No Palin, No Gingrich, Def no Romney.

    The only person I see these days that might stand a chance is the young governor from Louisiana.

    August 13, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  14. JohnP

    Some of the people that respond to these forums really need to learn some basic grammar. I feel like I'm trying to grade high school papers.

    August 13, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  15. maria

    they are all scary!

    August 13, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  16. Frank Lipton

    The prospect of any one of these nutjobs in the Oval Office should absolutely terrify all of us.

    August 13, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  17. CanadaOne


    They ALL look STUPID!!!

    Can you find someone that looks likey they make have competed Grade 5?

    August 13, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  18. Tim

    That picture is like a clown car.

    August 13, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  19. real

    So the GOP's top two pics are the original architect of the exact healthcare bill they're trying to paint as socialism...and Sarah Palin.


    August 13, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
1 2 3 4