Sarah Palin's recent book success and her new high-profile role on Fox News are having a stunning impact on her political standing, with a Newsmax-Zogby poll showing the former Alaska governor now leading the GOP field as the party's preferred candidate for president.
The exclusive Newsmax Media-Zogby poll released Thursday asked likely GOP voters: "If the Republican primary for president of the United States were held today. . . for whom would you vote?"
The poll gave voters a selection of top-tier potential candidates, as well as some dark horses,. The list included Scott Brown, Jeb Bush, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, David Petraeus, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitt Romney.
Despite the size and diversity of the field, Palin grabbed a solid 22.2 percent to take the lead with former Massachusetts Gov. Romney close behind with 19.4 percent.
Also making a strong showing was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 12 percent, followed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at 11 percent.
The Newsmax-Zogby poll suggests the rumble for top dog among GOP candidates is anything but static.
In early December, a CNN/Opinion Research poll found that Mike Huckabee led the Republican field of presidential candidates, with Palin trailing him in second place.
The latest data is clearly good news for Palin.
"It suggests to me that reports of her political death are exaggerated," political strategist and Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen tells Newsmax. "In American political life, politicians have not only second and third lives, they have nine lives. And Sarah Palin is on her third or fourth life."
The poll's results offer a stark contrast to earlier surveys on Palin.
In November, a Washington Post-ABC News poll reported that 52 percent of voters viewed Palin unfavorably, although her positive rating among Republicans in that poll was 76 percent.
Since then, Palin has continued making appearances associated with her blockbuster best-seller “Going Rogue: An American Life.”
And this month, she inked a deal as an on-air contributor to Fox News, followed by several high-profile appearances on the network.
The poll indicates that, among Republicans at least, Palin has overcome the various and sundry attacks leveled against her in the media and remains a powerful political force.
She recently kicked off a series of campaign appearances on behalf of Republican candidates who hope to ride the current wave of anti-incumbent animus into Washington.
GOP political leaders are taking notice.
California Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the chief deputy whip for the GOP, tells Newsmax he's not surprised by Palin's strength in the Newsmax-Zogby poll, "but I imagine there are a few networks, that it might surprise them."
McCarthy says Palin has become the voice of an electorate increasingly frustrated with federal governance.
"She has the common sense to go out, to listen, to talk, to tell exactly how she feels from the heart," McCarthy tells Newsmax. "They can try to go out there and say whatever they want about her but she's really the voice of the people. She raises a family, she understands those challenges. … I think that's what America is looking for.
"America is not looking for a party," McCarthy says. "They're looking for a leader and those who will help change Washington."
The Newsmax-Zogby poll asked voters to select from among a diverse field of candidates, including newly elected Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown (5.2 percent), Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (4.9 percent), and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (3.9 percent).
The poll also probed voters' interest in a dark horse in the race, Gen. David Petraeus, the commander who received high marks for his performance in executing the Bush administration's successful "surge" strategy in Iraq.
Petraeus placed fifth among the candidates with 5.6 percent of the vote, indicating he's clearly on the radar of GOP voters. The poll's margin of error was 2.2 percent.
Of course, polls taken months or years before an election often don't reflect what actually happens on Election Day. A Gallup poll taken in November 2007, for example, showed then-Sen. Hillary Clinton with a seemingly insurmountable 27-point lead over a young senator from Illinois named Barack Obama.
Schoen points out that 15.6 percent of those surveyed in the Newsmax-Zogby poll were undecided. Considering that front-runner Palin received just over 22 percent, "it's anybody's race" Schoen says.
"I think the greatest degree of certainty we have now," Schoen says, "is that uncertainty reigns. The tea party movement did not exist a year ago: It's now one of the most powerful forces in American politics. Scott Brown was a little-known legislator. Barack Obama was a very, very popular president.
"So the world has changed, and it will undeniably change to a much greater extent."
Schoen points out that the grass-roots-conservative movement has yet to coalesce behind a favorite candidate, adding, "The activist conservative right is probably the most visible, active, aggressive force in American political life today."
The poll isn't all good news for Palin, cautions Fox News contributor and best-selling author Dick Morris.
She is the clearly highest-profile candidate listed, he says, yet she garnered less than three-quarters of the vote.
"Sarah Palin has a strong group of dedicated supporters who really, really like her – with good reason, I might add. I think they believe, and I think they're right, that she was an enormous asset to the McCain ticket," Morris tells Newsmax. "And I think that group is going to be there buying her books, tuning into her programs, coming to her book signings, coming to her rallies, voting for her in the polls. But the fact that it's less than a quarter of the Republican electorate, to me indicates some trouble ahead for her."
Morris tells Newsmax the 2012 Republican nominee is likely to beat President Obama.
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