Got it? The bottom line: Speculation about the 2012 presidential campaign is a wonderfully entertaining but very imprecise endeavor.
Let’s start at the beginning. In a new Quinnipiac poll of GOP 2012 front-runners, Palin would lose a head-to-head matchup with Obama, if it were held today. She would win 40 percent of the vote, and Obama would get 48 percent, according to Quinnipiac survey respondents.
Gee, and just last week Palin told Barbara Walters of ABC that she could beat Obama in 2012.
But that does not mean Obama is in a strong position. Far from it. By 49 to 43 percent, the respondents to Quinnipiac said that the president does not deserve a second term.
“The Democratic base remains squarely behind President Barack Obama when it comes to his reelection, but his weakness among independent voters at this point makes his 2012 election prospects uncertain,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
But to beat Obama, you’ve got to get the chance to run against him in the general election. And perhaps the most interesting thing the Quinnipiac results point to is this: Palin is the front-runner for the GOP nomination.
Asked which candidate they would support if a 2012 Republican primary were held today, self-identified GOP voters picked Palin the most, according to Quinnipiac data. The former Alaska governor was the choice of 19 percent of Republicans, followed by Romney (18 percent), Mr. Huckabee (17 percent), and Newt Gingrich (15 percent).
OK, those are pretty close results, so we should not be putting too much emphasis on their importance, perhaps. Plus, no actual voting will occur for a long time. But the Quinnipiac survey reveals both Palin’s strengths, and her weaknesses.
Republicans love her. Seventy-four percent of GOP voters view her favorably, according to the new poll. By contrast, the corresponding figure for Romney is 64 percent.
But Democrats and, to a lesser extent, independents? Not so much. Seventy-eight percent of Democrats have an unfavorable view of Palin, the Quinnipiac survey says. Fifty-four percent of independents have a similar view.
Romney does much better with non-Republicans. Only 22 percent of independents view him unfavorably, for instance.
If Palin is to have any chance of defeating Obama, she has to follow Romney’s lead and somehow boost her popularity among noncore GOP voters.