May 4 (Bloomberg) -- None of the potential candidates in the unsettled Republican presidential field breaks the 20-percent mark, according to a poll released on the eve of the first official debate among some contenders.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney leads the pack with 18 percent among Republicans and independent voters leaning toward the party, the Quinnipiac University poll shows. Tied for second are former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin with 15 percent, followed by real estate developer Donald Trump with 12 percent.
“It’s difficult to get a handle on the 2012 Republican race,” Peter Brown, assistant director of the Hamden, Connecticut-based polling institute, said in a statement. “Many contenders are not well-known and many who are known are not liked, making their candidacies problematic.”
The poll shows limited potential in a general election campaign for Trump and Palin. In interviews with registered voters of various political stripes, 58 percent said they would never consider voting for either of those two, roughly twice the level expressed for most of the other Republicans.
“Sarah Palin and Donald Trump suffer from the reality that, as our mothers told us, ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression,’” Brown said.
The one other Republican rejected by a sizable bloc of voters is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, with 42 percent of those surveyed saying they would never consider voting for him.
“You could call this the ‘No Way’ measure,” Brown said.
The poll, taken April 26 to May 1, interviewed a total of 1,408 registered voters by telephone; the margin of error for that sample was plus or minus 2.6 percentage points. For the questions about the Republican primary, the poll interviewed 613 self-identified Republicans or Republican-leaning independents from the larger group; the margin of error for that sample was plus or minus four percentage points.
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas and Gingrich each receive 5 percent support in the polling of the Republican-leaning voters. Two Minnesotans, former Governor Tim Pawlenty and U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann, get 4 percent each.
Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor who resigned last month as the U.S. ambassador to China, received support from 1 percent, the same showing as former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.
Huntsman, who yesterday created a federal political action committee as a possible prelude to a presidential candidacy, is scheduled to speak in South Carolina on May 7, his first public speech since returning to the U.S.
The candidate debate occurring tomorrow in Greenville, South Carolina, will underscore the unformed nature of the Republican primary race. None of those in double digits in the Quinnipiac poll is participating.
Scheduled to attend are Pawlenty, Paul, Santorum and Johnson, along with Herman Cain, the former chairman of Godfather’s Pizza.
The gathering comes four days after Barack Obama announced that a U.S. raid into Pakistan killed Osama bin Laden, boosting the Democratic president’s foreign policy credentials.
On economic questions, poll participants favored cutting the nation’s unemployment rate of 8.8 percent over reducing the deficit, 54 percent to 35 percent. Still, in another question, they were evenly divided when asked to rank the importance between reducing federal government spending and unemployment.
By 69 percent to 28 percent, voters support raising taxes on households earning $250,000 or more.
Nearly as many, 60 percent to 34 percent, said Medicare should remain as is, rather than giving senior citizens money to buy private health insurance starting in 2022, as House Republicans proposed in a budget they passed last month. Gradually raising the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67 by 2033 is favored by 51 percent, opposed by 46 percent.
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