Poll: Romney still leading the pack

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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A Public Policy Polling poll released Thursday shows Romney continuing to hold his lead over the Republican field in a nationwide survey, even on a trial heat ballot with so-called Republican fantasy candidates like Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, and Jeb Bush.

The poll surveyed 544 usual Republican primary voters nationwide, using an automated phone survey over the period between June 9 and June 12. That means that the results pre-date the debate on Monday in New Hampshire, of which Romney and Bachmann were declared the big winners. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 4.2 percent.

Romney leads the pack with 22 percent of the vote. Herman Cain is his closest competitor with 17 percent, followed closely by Sarah Palin, with 15 percent. Pawlenty, despite being lumped in with Romney as a ‘first-tier’ candidate by most observers, fails to break double digits, tying the embattled Newt Gingrich with 9 percent of the vote. Bachmann trails with 8 percent and Ron Paul with 7 percent. Huntsman gets only 1 percent of the vote.

The rankings don’t shift substantially without Palin in the race. Romney retains his lead with 27 percent of the vote, followed by Herman Cain with 20 percent. Bachmann is in third with 13 percent, followed by Gingrich with 12, and Pawlenty with 10.

Republicans are still holding out for more contenders, and as an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Wednesday found, Republicans have mixed feelings on the field of candidates: 45 percent say they are dissatisfied with the field, an equal percentage said they were satisfied.

The rankings among the Republican contenders are fairly consistent with the NBC/WSJ poll, which found Romney leading with 30 percent of the vote, followed by Sarah Palin with 14 percent and Cain with 12 percent. One difference, however, is that NBC/WSJ included Rick Perry and Rick Santorum on the ballot, whereas PPP did not. PPP also conducts surveys using robo-calls, while NBC/WSJ results are based on live phone interviews. (POLLS AGREE: Romney leads NBC/WSJ poll as well)

That makes it interesting that Romney remains at the top of the pack on a ballot that includes him, Bachmann and Pawlenty, but also fantasy candidates like Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, and Paul Ryan. All of those people, except Giuliani, have adamantly denied that they will run, though they have not successfully managed to squelch hope among Republicans.

In that line up, Christie and Romney are virtually tied – Christie with 18 percent of the vote, Romney with 17 percent. Sarah Palin retains a second place spot with 13 percent of the vote, followed by Bush and Giuliani, with 11 percent of the vote. Paul Ryan and Pawlenty fall into last place with 6 percent of the vote each, behind Bachmann.

Those numbers seem to suggest that Romney would hold up well against these Republican heavyweights. However, in that scenario, those fantasy candidates are probably splitting the vote as Republicans who are dissatisfied with the current field say they will vote for their absolute dream candidate. But if only one or two of those candidates runs, those dissatisfied Republicans could flock to them, meaning that one of those candidates could easily outstrip Romney if he were the only fantasy candidate to enter the race.

Republicans seem to be in an ‘anyone but Obama’ kind of mindset – 56 percent said they would choose a candidate with the best chance of defeating Obama over a candidate with conservative positions on every issue. That echoes the results of a USA Today/Gallup poll earlier this week, which found that 50 percent would choose someone who could beat Obama over someone with whom they agreed on all the issues.

That is likely helping Romney, who, to date, is seen as the ‘most presidential’ of the candidates. His high poll numbers are probably also creating a feedback loop – the better he polls, the more people see him as a viable candidate.