Reporting from Washington — Four familiar names lead the pack in a new poll testing the very early landscape in the Republican race for president in 2012.
The Quinnipiac University survey released Monday found Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich tightly matched at the top of the field, all within a range of 4%.
Palin, the party's 2008 nominee for vice president, receives 19% of the vote in the national survey of Republican voters. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who finished second to John McCain in primaries and caucuses won in 2008, is backed by 18%.
Another 2008 candidate, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, gets 17% of the vote, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich finishes with 15%. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is a distant fifth at 6%, a respectable showing at this point as he builds a national profile.
Electability often emerges as a lead consideration among primary voters, and two of the four Republicans that Quinnipiac tests in hypothetical matchups with President Obama are competitive. Romney actually leads Obama, 45% to 44%, while Obama leads Huckabee 46% to 44%. But Obama has an 8-point advantage over Palin, 48% to 40% overall and 44% to 37% among independent voters.
Against Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Obama leads 45% to 36%. Daniels, who also served in the Bush administration as the director of the Office of Management and Budget, is considered a potential dark horse in the GOP field.
"Daniels is essentially a generic Republican because of his anonymity to most voters," Quinnipiac's Peter Brown said in a press release. About four in five Americans have not heard enough about him to form an opinion, the survey found.
A full sample was asked whether Obama deserved to be reelected. At this point, 43% said yes, 49% said, and 9% were not sure.
"The best thing Obama has going for him when it comes to his reelection may be that at this point the Republicans don't have a candidate who is both nationally well-known and well-liked by a majority of voters," Brown said.
Nearly two-thirds — 64% — of Democratic voters say they do not want anyone to challenge the president for re-nomination, while 27% say they would like to see a contested fight.
The survey of 2,424 registered voters was conducted from Nov. 8 to 15 and includes subsamples of 1,011 Republican and Republican-leaning voters, and 1,048 Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters.