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Pew: Among well-known Republican candidates, Romney is the least unpopular

With former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney having officially announced his campaign for president, the field of viable GOP candidates for the 2012 race has solidified, for now. But a Pew poll released today shows how unsatisfied Republican voters are with the candidates that they are familiar with.

Only three of the official candidates — Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul — are known to over 50 percent of Republicans. Of those three, Romney is by far the most popular, with 51 percent of Republicans saying there is some chance they would vote for him. But he is still disliked by many Republicans, as 44 percent say that there is no chance they would vote for him.

Romney meets the qualifications for two of the three most popular traits for a Republican presidential candidate as measured by Pew: He was a state governor and a business executive. Aside from his general lack of popularity, Romney faces a specific problem among white evangelicals, 34 percent of which say they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate. This is likely why Romney is concentrating his efforts on winning the New Hampshire primary, rather than the Iowa caucus, where social conservatives will dominate.

Among the most well-known candidates, Romney appears to face no particular threat from self-identified tea party members, who are much more knowledgeable about the GOP field than mainstream Republicans and are slightly more likely to vote for Romney than for Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann or Tim Pawlenty. No candidate has as much tea party support as Herman Cain (50 percent support among those who are familiar with him) but it’s doubtful that Cain is a real threat to his fellow candidates given that only 33 percent of Republicans know who he is.

Still, given how dissatisfied Republicans are with their frontrunner at this point in the election cycle, expect greater emphasis among conservative pundits on would-be candidates who fulfill the checklist of qualifications needed for the perfect GOP candidate to run against Obama in November 2012. As the Pew poll reveals, such a candidate is a God-fearing veteran and former CEO with political experience outside of Washington as a governor who is faithful to his (or her) spouse.

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