Contrary to the Beltway media chorus, Gallup’s latest survey indicates that there is in fact a Republican 2012 presidential frontrunner. His name is Mike Huckabee. Politico’s Andy Barr recently made a similar observation: “Poll the early primary states, and the former Arkansas governor is winning. Match up any of the 2012 [GOP] contenders with President Barack Obama, and Huckabee usually runs strongest.”
The most recent survey results from Gallup (published April 5) indicate that Mike Huckabee is leading the potential 2012 GOP presidential pack based on a combination of Gallup’s “Positive Intensity Score” and overall name recognition. Gallup also highlights Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Tim Pawlenty as candidates who have high intensity scores but need to make up ground on name recognition.
CivicForumPAC looked at the raw data that Gallup provided in its previous survey (published March 15). What we saw in those numbers is that despite generating relatively high intensity scores (which looks only at the “strong favorables” minus the “strong unfavorables” among respondents who indicate that they recognize a candidate’s name), some of these candidates have very high percentages of “no opinion” responses — signifying that the survey respondents have heard of the candidate’s name but don’t know enough beyond that to form an opinion.
With that in mind, CivicForumPAC weighted Gallup’s “Positive Intensity Score” data from March 15 to reflect the imbalance between basic name recognition and more substantial familiarity. The results are even more striking for Mike Huckabee. Herman Cain also stands out (see note below). The weighted scores that we calculated based on the February 28 – March 13 data published by Gallup are arranged in the chart from highest to lowest.
*Note: Gallup has not yet released raw data for the polls that include Herman Cain. Based on Cain’s reported “Positive Intensity Score” of 21 in the latest poll and inferring a typical distribution among the five response categories, Cain would likely fall somewhere ahead of Mitt Romney and slightly behind (or even with) Sarah Palin in the CivicForumPAC weighted rankings, with a weighted score between 10 and 15. We’ll definitely want to watch how Cain’s score moves as the GOP presidential nomination process heats up.
Update: Gallup did not include Donald Trump in its list of potential GOP candidates. Trump has been polling well in recent days.
Ford O’Connell and Steve Pearson are co-founders of CivicForumPAC and advisors to conservative candidates on Internet outreach, communications and campaign strategy.