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Huckabee far ahead in national poll of 2012 field

There may be indications that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is moving away from a 2012 presidential campaign, but a new poll from Public Policy Polling has him holding a dominant lead over other potential Republican contenders.

The national poll sampled 515 “usual national Republican primary voters,” and Huckabee gained the most support by a wide margin, with 24 percent. Former governors Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney tied for second with 14 percent each, followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 11 percent.

Huckabee increasingly appears to have positioned himself as the candidate who can both win over social conservatives and more moderate Republicans, and other polls have shown him as the early favorite to win the 2012 Iowa Caucus (a feat he accomplished in 2008) which could help further propel him to national success. However, he has been quieter than other presidential contenders, noting recently that both of the strongest poll performers at this point of the 2008 cycle did not win their party’s nomination in Iowa, and that he will not decide on making a run until this summer.

After the four top-tier candidates, the poll provided positive news for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty who placed in fifth with eight percent. While that may be significantly behind the top candidates, it is also well above the other candidates who have previously been less engaged on the national stage. Compared to Palin, Gingrich or Romney, who voters have already likely formed strong opinions on, Pawlenty still has plenty of room to introduce himself to Republicans across the country, and his uptick in support indicates that once he fully enters the stage alongside the other candidates he may be able to enter the top tier.

PPP’s Tom Jensen also sees Pawlenty performing strongly in the poll:

The other winner in this month’s poll is Pawlenty. 8% is certainly the best he’s done in one of our national polls and it’s a sign that he could be starting to gain some traction. His record strong standing is part of why Romney’s polling so poorly this month, as we’ve consistently found that they tap into a similar centrist base. A strong Pawlenty candidacy is good news for Democrats because anything that divides the already diluted Republican moderate vote can only make it more likely the GOP nominates someone too far to the right to be viable in the general election.

Trailing Pawlenty, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) drew seven percent, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels received 4 percent,and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) only managed one percent. The poll was conducted between Jan. 14-16, and had a +/-4.3 percent margin of error.

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