A new Gallup poll finds Mitt Romney still at the top of the Republican presidential field, but with opponents closing in. And in a sign of the still-unsettled nature of the GOP race, Romney's three closest pursuers aren't in the race.
When Gallup included the names of potential candidates in surveying Republican and Republican-leaning voters, the results show Romney leading, with 17 percent of those polled; Texas Gov. Rick Perry in second, with 15 percent; Sarah Palin, with 12 percent, Rudy Giuliani, with 11 percent; Michele Bachmann, 11 percent; Ron Paul, eight percent; Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich, with three percent each; and Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Santorum, with two percent each. At the moment at least, Perry, Palin, and Giuliani are not in the race.
Among Republicans who describe themselves as conservative, Romney is tied with Perry, at 18 percent. Among Republicans who describe themselves as moderate or liberal, Romney actually trails Giuliani, 14 percent to 16 percent, and is tied with Palin.
Of course, it seems unlikely that all three potential candidates — Perry, Palin, and Giuliani — will actually join the race. But Perry is looking more and more likely to run, while Giuliani is said to be seriously considering it. Palin's intentions remain unclear, but many insiders expect her not to run.
Asking Republicans about a field that included Perry but not Palin and Giuliani, Gallup found Romney ahead, with 23 percent, followed by Perry, with 18 percent, and Bachmann, with 13 percent. In a field that included Giuliani, but not Perry or Palin, Romney led with 23 percent, followed by Bachmann with 17 percent and Giuliani, with 14 percent.
The bottom line is that Romney remains a frontrunner, but he is a frontrunner with a field closing in on him. Recent polls by Fox News and CNN/Opinion Research show Romney with a diminished lead from earlier surveys. In Gallup, Bachmann has moved up on Romney in the last month, and the entry of any combination of Perry, Palin, and Giuliani would further erode Romney's lead. “Romney is the nominal front-runner for the Republican nomination, though his status is weaker now than a month ago and could be weakened further by the entry of a candidate like Perry, Palin, or Giuliani,” Gallup concludes.