POLITICS
05/18/2011 01:19 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

GOP 2012 Primary Race: Still No Frontrunner

WASHINGTON -- On the heels of announcements by Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump that they will not seek the Republican nomination for president in 2012, a new Gallup report released Tuesday finds there is still no frontrunner for the GOP nomination.

The report found that when respondents who had selected Huckabee or Trump as their first choice for the Republican nomination in Gallup's March and April polling were reallocated according to their second choices, Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin moved into a near tie for first place. Still, neither potential candidate was the favorite of more than a fifth of Republicans.

Huckabee and Trump had been tied for first place, each with just 16 percent, in Gallup's April primary poll, with Romney and Palin trailing. The three candidates with the highest name recognition in Gallup's May polling -- Romney, Palin and Newt Gingrich -- made the biggest gains when second choices for Trump and Huckabee voters were reallocated, but none appeared poised to pick up enough support to vault into clear frontrunner status.

A poll released by Public Policy Polling before Trump or Huckabee made their announcements also found that there would be little change in frontrunner status if Trump and Huckabee dropped out. That survey found Romney, Palin, Gingrich, Ron Paul and Tim Pawlenty all making from 3 to 7 percentage point gains without Trump and Huckabee running, and found Romney moving into a small lead over Gingrich and Palin.

Although Sarah Palin has not announced that she will run or formed an exploratory committee, she continues to receive significant support in primary polling. Without Trump and Huckabee in the race, she receives 17 percent support in PPP's polling and 18 percent in Gallup's with the Trump and Huckabee voters reallocated. If Palin chooses not to run, PPP's polling suggests that the primary could become a two-way race between Romney and Gingrich. In a hypothetical trial heat in which Trump, Huckabee and Palin did not run, Romney's support jumped to 28 percent and Gingrich's to 26 percent in PPP's most recent poll.

The Gallup report also found that while Romney, Palin, Gingrich and Paul all have name recognition above 75 percent among Republicans, none of those candidates matched Huckabee's pre-dropout "positive intensity score." Gallup calculates that score by subtracting the percentage of Republicans who say they have a strongly unfavorable opinion of a candidate from those who say they have a strongly favorable opinion. It is intended to be a measure of the strength of positive feelings for a candidate.

Huckabee's positive intensity score was +25 percent, while the four most recognized candidates now have intensity scores in the +11 to +16 range. The remaining candidates with the highest positive intensity scores are Michele Bachmann with a score of +21 (also the only other candidate to top 50 percent in name recognition) and Herman Cain, who was recognized by only 29 percent of Republicans but had a positive intensity score of +24.

But high positive intensity scores for Bachmann and Cain have not yet translated into primary support for either candidate. In Gallup's March and April polling, even with second choices of Huckabee and Trump supporters reallocated, Bachmann was the first choice of only 5 percent of Republicans and Cain of less than 0.5 percent. Bachmann earned slightly greater support (8 percent) in PPP's May poll with Trump and Huckabee out of the race. Cain was not offered as an option in that poll.