Republicans and Republican-leaning independents have no clear favorite for the party’s 2012 presidential nominee at this point, with Mike Huckabee (18%), Mitt Romney (16%), and Sarah Palin (16%) in a statistical tie for the lead.
The results are based on interviews conducted Feb. 18-20, with 1,326 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents on the Gallup Daily survey. Gallup had previously asked Republicans for their 2012 nomination preferences inÂ November andÂ September.
Gallup’s polling on Republicans’ preferences for their party’s 2012 presidential nominee clearly underscores that there is no early front-runner. This is a departure from what Gallup has found for the GOP nomination since 1972, when state primaries became the main way of selecting the nominee. Previously, a particular candidate held a strong lead at the outset of the Gallup’s Republican nomination polling, and that candidate usually led for most of the nominating campaign and eventually won the nomination. The only exception to that general pattern was in 2008. Rudy Giuliani led in early preference polls that year, but his lead began to dwindle in late 2007 and he performed poorly in the initial primaries and caucuses. The current wide-open nature of the 2012 GOP race to date suggests a competitive and perhaps dynamic race ahead.