Poll: Palin near top of re-shaped GOP field

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has moved up in the latest Gallup poll of the Republican presidential race.  A new survey, completed after decisions by Mitch Daniels, Mike Huckabee, and Donald Trump not to run for president, shows Palin in second place, close behind leader Mitt Romney.  But the number of voters who are undecided is larger than any single candidate's support.

The poll, which was limited to Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, has Romney in first place with 17 percent.  Palin is next, with 15 percent.  After that is Ron Paul, with 10 percent, Newt Gingrich with nine percent, Herman Cain with eight percent, Tim Pawlenty with six percent, Michele Bachmann with five percent, and Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum, and Gary Johnson with two percent.  Twenty-two percent say they have no opinion.

Although Romney and Palin are in the lead, the poll represents a significant boost for Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, who has long been a favorite with the Tea Party.  Cain was not included in previous Gallup surveys; now, he is virtually tied for third place.

In the last Gallup poll, taken a month ago, Huckabee and Trump led the field, with Romney and Palin behind. “In the short term, Romney and Palin seem to have benefited most from several prominent potential Republican candidates' decisions not to run for president,” writes Gallup. Also at that time, the number of people who said they had no opinion, 14 percent, was significantly smaller than the 22 percent who say they have no opinion now.

In the new poll, Palin is the only name in the top six who might not be running for president.  Although there have been stories highlighting recent Palin actions — buying a house in Arizona and cooperating with a movie highlighting her career — Palin has not revealed her plans for 2012.  Gallup asked Republicans who they support in a race without Palin, and Romney still came out in the lead, but by a relatively small margin over Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.  “Should Palin…not enter the race,” Gallup writes, “Romney would be the clear front-runner, but arguably the weakest front-runner in any recent Republican nomination campaign.”

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