Poll: Huckabee Leads 2012 GOP Field In Iowa

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In 2008, Mike Huckabee’s victory in the Iowa Republican caucus helped propel him to a stronger-than-expected showing in the race to win the party’s presidential nomination. Now, one year away from the next Iowa caucus, a new Neighborhood Research poll finds Huckabee in good standing to once again take first place in the Hawkeye State.

In the poll, 24% of Republican voters said Huckabee was their first choice for the party’s presidential nod. Mitt Romney polled the next highest, trailing the former Arkansas Governor by a five-point margin, at 19%. Sarah Palin came in third at 11%, followed by Next Gingrich (8%), Tim Pawlenty (4%), Ron Paul (3%), Michele Bachmann (2%), Mike Pence (1%) and Haley Barbour (1%). John Thune, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, and Gary Johnson all received less than one percent in the poll.

However, one-fourth of respondents were undecided, slightly more than the number who said they supported Huckabee. With a full year to go before the caucus, that leaves plenty of room for another contender to soak up that undecided support and overtake Huckabee.

While polling has been sparse so far, Huckabee has led in each poll of the Iowa caucus TPM has tracked. Last May, a PPP poll found him leading Palin 27% to 17%, with Romney in third at 15%.

Huckabee also polls well nationally. A recent Gallup poll found that he had the highest net favorable rating of the GOP contenders among Republican voters nationwide.

In the poll, Huckabee had a net favorable rating of 30%, followed by Gingrich at 24%, and Romney at 23%. Palin had the fourth best net favorable at 22%, and Mike Pence and John Huntsman tied at 19% to round out the top five.

Gallup’s net favorable ratings were calculated by subtracting the percent of respondents who had a strong unfavorable opinion of a candidate from the percent who had a strong favorable opinion of that candidate.

As the first event in the presidential nominating process, the Iowa caucuses are immensely important, particularly for underdog campaigns. In 2008, Huckabee came out of nowhere to score an upset victory over the better known candidates, and his win there — and the media attention that followed — was likely the reason why he finished second overall to John McCain for the GOP nomination.

The Neighborhood Research poll was conducted January 3-8 among 556 Republican voters in Iowa. It has a margin of error of 4.1%. The Gallup poll was conducted January 4-5 among 923 Republican and Republican-leaning Independents nationwide, and has a margin of error of 4.0%.

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