Polls can be a snapshot of the moment, a reflection of an instance in time where there exists a picture of the population. The most recent snapshot of the potential field of GOP presidential candidates for 2012 taken by ABC News/Washington Post indicates a field where many of those running are primarily indistinguishable from those around them. In fact, the latest poll can be likened to the picture of marathon shot from in front of the runners where the starting gun has sounded only seconds before. There seem to be a couple that are recognizably in front (yet not by much) but most of the placement of the runners seem to be nearly identical. And there is one other item: Nearly half of the race’s supporters do not appear pleased with the runners.
That is the picture of the Republican field of potential 2012 presidential candidates at present.
The poll noted that, of all those Republicans who have declared, have remained undeclared (some of which have formed presidential exploratory committees), and/or are not declaring, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who announced the formation of an exploratory committee on April 11, has the lion’s share of those Republicans and Republican-leaning Independent voters who would support a particular candidate in the Republican primaries.
In fact, he is the only potential candidate in double digits at 16 percent. Business tycoon Donald Trump has half of the support (8 percent) Romney enjoys and trails the category “No one/None of them” by 4 points (12 percent).
By far, the victor in the race for the nomination could be an as yet unknown player. A full 33 percent of respondents said they had no opinion of the available candidates.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee placed third with 6 percent. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was next with 5 percent. The field then showed itself, with all other potential candidates placing at 2 percent or lower, which would appear to be bad news for Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (both at 2 percent), who found just a little more support than Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Indiana Congressman Mike Pence, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (who continues to say he will not run).
Although the data are raw, it is reflective of a field that itself has remained primarily noncommittal, like the runners in the aforementioned snapshot, unwilling to take a quick lead in what will be a long, drawn-out event. Only eight candidates thus far have actually committed to exploratory committees or like organizations. And only half of those have nationwide or somewhat nationwide name recognition (Romney, Paul, Gingrich, Pawlenty). Rick Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, announced the formation of an exploratory committee on April 13 but failed to place in the poll.
Still, the paucity of committed candidates may be only partially responsible for the lack of enthusiasm shown for any one particular candidate. Dissatisfaction runs high among Republican and Republican-leaning independent voters. When asked how satisfied or dissatisfied they were with the current list of contenders, only 43 percent said they were satisfied, 38 percent of which registered an unconvincing “Somewhat Satisfied.” Dissatisfaction registered at 40 percent, with 10 percent responding as “Very Dissatisfied.”
It would appear that Romney is a lukewarm favorite at best but registering in the low double digits does reflect an electorate confident of its most recognizable figure.
According to CNN, the poll contrasts heavily with a similar poll taken in 2008. Nearly two-thirds of Republican voters then were satisfied with the field of possible candidates.
And yet, there is still time for the GOP to find a clear frontrunner. The first of the scheduled debates among the presidential hopefuls kicks off at the beginning of May in California at the Ronald Reagan Library. Many of those that have yet to commit to even exploratory committees are expected to announce in May and June. Campaigning will then switch into full gear with big pushes in January 2012, ramping up for the first set of primaries and caucuses, which are scheduled to begin with the Iowa Caucus on February 6.
In short, the snapshot near the finish line (in August 2012 at the Republican National Convention) will be a far different reflection of a captured moment. This marathon is just beginning…