Poll: Obama Handily Leads Palin, Romney, Thune

President Obama easily leads three Republican challengers in hypothetical 2012 matchups presented in a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. However, Obama’s victory against a generic GOP candidate falls within the poll’s margin of error.

Only former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney polled reasonably close to Obama in the head-to-head contests. Forty percent of respondents said they would vote for Romney if he were the Republican nominee, versus 47% who said they would vote for Obama.

Against Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Obama leads 47% to 27%, though 17% said they were undecided, a reflection of Thune’s low national profile. In the same poll, 76% of respondents did not know Thune well enough to form an opinion of him.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin fared worst of the three candidates tested. In that matchup, 33% percent of respondents said they would vote for Palin, while 55% said they would vote for Obama.The poll did not test several other prominent Republicans who are considering a bid for the party’s presidential nomination. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee – who has consistently polled well against Obama – was not tested, nor were Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).

The poll also asked:

If President Obama runs for re-election in the year 2012, do you think you will probably vote for President Obama or probably vote for the Republican candidate?

Forty-two percent of respondents said they would probably vote for Obama, while 39% said they would vote for the Republican candidate. That falls just within the poll’s 3.1% margin of error.

That result is similar to one in a Penn Schoen Berland poll released this morning which found Obama trailing a generic GOP challenger by one point.

The NBC-Wall Street Journal poll of 1,000 nationwide was conducted December 9-13. It has a margin of error of 3.1%.