02/07/2011 12:11 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Obama Besting Palin In Deeply Republican Tennessee: Poll

WASHINGTON -- A poll released Monday provides more evidence that Republicans would hamper their chances in the 2012 presidential election were they to choose Sarah Palin as their nominee.

The survey, conducted by Vanderbilt University's Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, concluded that President Barack Obama would beat Palin in Tennessee in a hypothetical campaign matchup, despite the president's approval rating of just 44 percent in the state.

Forty-two percent of respondents said they'd vote for Obama, while 37 percent said they'd pick the former Alaska governor, the Tennessean reported on Monday. This, in a state that hasn't gone for a Democratic presidential candidate since Bill Clinton in 1996 -- even though the party's nominee in 2000, former Vice President Al Gore, called Tennessee his home.

The Vanderbilt numbers are hardly concrete. Palin is not yet a candidate, and a lot can happen in nearly two years, especially with the unemployment rate widely expected to remain above 9 percent this year and above 8 percent at the end of 2012.

But the poll findings still represent a telling data point as Republican voters survey the field of prospective candidates. Late last month, the progressive-leaning survey firm Public Policy Polling found that, were Palin on the ballot, Texas would become a swing state, with 47 percent of Texan respondents saying they'd vote for the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee while 46 percent said they'd back Obama.

In Tennessee, Obama even bested Palin among self-identified independent voters by a solid 12-point margin, 44 to 32 percent. Among self-described moderates, the margin is a staggering 33 points, 57 percent to 24 percent.