Major Republicans Fail to Beat Obama in Potential 2012 Matchup, Survey Finds

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Republicans Mike Huckabee, John McCain and Mitt Romney. (AP Photo)

( – Major potential Republican presidential contenders do not prevail against a weakened President Barack Obama despite the fact that a plurality of Americans would vote to deny him a second term, a new Quinnipiac poll finds.

Americans do not support a second term for Obama by a 49 to 43 percent margin, the survey shows. Led by 92 percent of Republicans, and 51 percent of Independents, the poll continues a trend Quinnipiac has shown since March that nearly half of the country does not think Obama deserves a second term.

However, the poll also shows that none of the major potential GOP contenders curry enough favor with voters to defeat the president in a 2012 race.

The two potential contenders who come close, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, are statistically tied with the president. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, polls 45 percent to Obama’s 44 percent while Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, polls 44 percent to Obama’s 46 percent.

For the poll conducted Nov. 8 – 15, Quinnipiac University surveyed 2,424 registered voters nationwide, live by telephone, and there is a margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points.

In the survey, Obama beats Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin 48 to 40 percent. That’s a wider margin than Obama’s 2008 victory over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who elevated Palin to the national stage by choosing her as his vice presidential running mate.

However, Palin leads among Republicans when asked who they would most want to challenge Obama in 2012, but only with 19 percent of those Republicans surveyed. Romney and Huckabee both trail Palin closely with 18 and 17 percent respectively.

President Barack Obama
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President Barack Obama at a White House press conference on Nov. 3, 2010, the day after the midterm election. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Palin’s theoretical loss to Obama is driven by her weaker-than-average performance among fellow Republicans and the distinction of being the only one of the top three candidates – Palin, Romney, and Huckabee – to lose to Obama among Independents.

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Palin’s poor performance among Independent voters goes against the year-long trend for the GOP of winning among that crucial voting block. Both Romney and Huckabee attract more independent votes than Obama, with Romney taking a double-digit lead 46 to 35 percent.

Palin’s weak standing among Independent voters apparently is driven by her unpopularity with them and with Democrats. The former Alaska governor is the only one of the top three GOP contenders to have a net-negative favorability rating among voters, with 51 percent of the public viewing her unfavorably, according to the poll.

Sarah Palin, Tea Party
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Sarah Palin flashes a thumbs-up as she addresses a crowd of tea partiers on Boston Common on Wednesday, April 14, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Independents track closely with the broader electorate, disliking Palin by a 54 to 33 percent margin. Palin’s favorability problems are compounded by the fact that, unlike her other two GOP top guns, the vast majority of Americans have heard of her and have made up their minds that they apparently do not like her, according to the poll.

A mere 10 percent of the country told Quinnipiac pollsters that they had not heard enough about Palin to make up their minds. Conversely, 33 percent of Americans said they did not know enough about Huckabee and 35 percent said they did not know enough about Romney to form an opinion.

These numbers are important for all three Republicans because they indicate how much potential each prospective candidate has to affect how the public perceives them. Romney and Huckabee, with large shares of voters still undecided about them, have more room to maneuver when it comes to public perception. Palin, however, apparently has significantly less opportunity to sway voters, given the fact that 90 percent of the country has already formed an opinion of her.

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