New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie runs neck-and-neck with Mitt Romney in the 2012 Republican presidential race if several top contenders choose not to run, a new poll from Rasmussen Reports reveals.
Respondents were asked for their choice among seven potential GOP candidates if Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, and Newt Gingrich are not in the race.
Christie picked up 26 percent of the vote, just behind former Massachusetts Gov. Romney, in the survey of likely GOP primary voters.
They were followed by Rep. Paul Ryan with 12 percent, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (8 percent), Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (4 percent), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (3 percent), and former Utah Gov. John Huntsman (2 percent), while 6 percent said they preferred some other candidate and 12 percent were undecided.
Christie, who thus far has ruled out a 2012 White House run, “has gained national exposure from his hardball budget-cutting tactics,” Rasmussen observed.
Tea party members strongly preferred Christie in the new poll, as did unaffiliated voters who are likely to vote in the Republican primaries. Romney has a slight edge among Republicans.
Rasmussen also asked respondents for their choice among possible contenders considered dark horses. The clear winner was Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann with 27 percent of the vote. Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania was a distant second with 12 percent.
They were followed by Georgia businessman Herman Cain with 9 percent, Rick Perry (7 percent), and John Huntsman (3 percent). Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, retired New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, and Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter each got 1 percent.
When faced with this slate of candidates, 6 percent of respondents said they prefer someone else, and 22 percent are undecided.
Bachmann’s support rises to 31 percent among unaffiliated voters who say they are likely to vote in a GOP primary.
But the most important factor about this election “is beyond the control of Republicans or even to a large degree the president,” Scott Rasmussen, founder and president of Rasmussen Reports, tells Newsmax.
“If the economy is doing very well in the fall of 2012, there is nothing the Republican will be able to do to win,” he says. “If the economy goes into a double dip recession, it will be very hard for the Republicans to lose.
“If the economy muddles along kind of like we are right now — it’s getting a little better but very slowly — that’s when the candidate will matter. From a purely electoral point of view, from the objective of trying to win, Republicans will want a candidate who will not be a distraction, and who could make the race all about Barack Obama, make it a referendum on the president. That would be a good electoral strategy.
“The next question is, is that a good governing strategy? Probably not. To have a governing strategy there will have to be a little more leadership shown.
“Voters right now don’t believe that either side has presented a credible budget plan, and they’re looking for someone who can do that.”
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