Early polling shows growing support for Palin presidential bid among Republicans

Sarah Palin is showing early signs of support among likely Republican voters in a handful of swing states that were surveyed shortly before last Tuesday’s election, a new analysis from a Democratic polling firm shows.

A Public Policy Polling report released Thursday shows that the former vice presidential candidate is leading in presidential nomination surveys in West Virginia, Texas, Maine and Wisconsin. The group has polled 12 states so far in a series of reports, and included Palin in a list of choices with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, South Dakota Sen. John Thune and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Of those, Romney is leading in five states, Huckabee in two, and Pawlenty leads only in Minnesota, his home state.

PPP director Tom Jensen said that the early results — the election is just under two years away — suggest that Palin’s strong showing in heavily Republican states does not bode well for other social conservatives like Huckabee and Gingrich, who would rely heavily on red, Southern states for key support.

“These margins are obviously very close but they nevertheless pose trouble for Huckabee and perhaps even more so Gingrich if she ends up making a [bid] because strength in the South would be vital to either of their prospects,” Jensen said in a post announcing the report.

While the poll shows support growing for Palin, Romney is the clear leader among the states that were surveyed. The former governor leads in nearly half, but does not appear to control New England, his home region. Palin snatched away Maine by a margin of five points and Huckabee trails him by only two in the state.

The poll also shows that Obama still trails behind a generic GOP candidate in swing states Florida, Minnesota, Maine and Wisconsin, all of which he won in 2008. A recent national CNN/Opinion Research survey of likely voters in both parties showed Palin trailing Obama 44-52, suggesting that while she may poll well within her own party, she lacks broad support. In that same survey, Huckabee was polled leading Obama in a hypothetical match-up 52-44, Romney was shown leading 50-45, and Gingrich was shown trailing but within the margin of error 49-47.

Jensen said that PPP plans to release similar polls from Alaska, Kentucky, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Washington next week, which will add more clarity to who Republicans may be looking to as a challenger to President Obama in 2012.

Email Chris Moody and follow him on Twitter