Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee leads the field of Republicans likely to enter the 2012 presidential contest, according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll.
In the survey, 71 percent of Republicans said they would seriously consider voting for Huckabee, compared to 65 percent for ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Among other presidential aspirants, ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich tallied 60 percent, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty 32 percent and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour 26 percent.
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The poll was conducted Oct. 31 to Nov. 1.
As for Americans overall, 40 percent said they would seriously consider voting for Huckabee, 39 percent for Romney, 33 percent for Palin, 29 percent for Gingrich, 18 percent for Pawley and 15 percent for Barbour.
So the data indicate that at this point, Huckabee has the best chance to win the Republican nomination and that he and Romney would have a nearly equal chance of winning the general election.
Among Democrats, 20 percent said they would consider voting for Romney, 18 percent for Huckabee, 11 percent for Pawlenty and 10 percent for Palin.
Among independents, 40 percent said they would consider voting for Huckabee and Romney, 32 percent for Palin and 28 percent for Gingrich.
With Romney generally acknowledged as less conservative than Huckabee, the split loyalties between them illustrates the fight between conservatives and moderates for control of the Republican Party.
The GOP lost a New York House seat Tuesday, after conservatives in the 23rd district pushed out moderate Dede Scozzafava in favor of conservative Douglas Hoffman. Scozzafava then endorsed Democrat Bill Owens, who won.
“When our party is united, whether you run in a northern state or a southern state, our party can win,” House Republican Whip Eric Cantor, Va., told The New York Times.
“But when you are divided, you can lose a seat that has been in the Republican column for quite a long time.”
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