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GOP Insiders Say Romney’s Still Number One GOP Insiders Say Romney’s Still Number One GOP Insiders Say Romney’s Still Number One GOP Insiders Say Romney...

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National Journal Insiders Poll / INSIDERS POLL

GOP Insiders Say Romney’s Still Number One

Sarah Palin, however, barely cracks their top 10 list.

(Robert Giroux/Getty Images)

photo of James A. Barnes
March 29, 2011

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney continues to be seen as the favorite for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination according to a special National Journal Political Insiders Poll released on Tuesday. The second favorite for the GOP nod is former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. But Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor who was John McCain’s running mate in 2008 and was once viewed as a potential party standard bearer, was ranked ninth by the GOP Insiders—tied with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Texas Gov. Rick Perry—when they were asked who was most likely going to be their 2012 presidential nominee.

Rounding out the list of the top five contenders for the GOP nomination were Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.  

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Romney’s strengths and weaknesses are well known and haven’t changed much since January, the last time the Republican Insiders ranked their prospective 2012 field, and when the former Massachusetts governor also finished first. He has a national network of political and financial supporters and the hard-won experience from having sought the nomination three years ago. But many Republican activists are troubled that the healthcare reform law he signed while governor inspired the reform passed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. And some believe he has an authenticity gap.

“Romney still has fundamental advantages no one else has going into this race even with carryover questions from 2008,” said one Republican Insider. “Probably the shakiest GOP front-runner in modern history, but it’s still his to lose,” said another.

Pawlenty is viewed by many GOP Insiders as the 2012 contender with the least political baggage who has positioned himself as a candidate with the broadest appeal to the party conservative base from tea party supporters to values voters. “Increasingly the choice by process-of-elimination,” noted one Republican Insider. “His strategy is to be the least offensive of the ugly girls still standing at the bar at 2 a.m.,” joked another GOP Insider.

And while a Palin candidacy was largely disregarded by GOP Insiders, some cautioned that she should not be dismissed. “Forget the numbers; if she gets in, she will be formidable,” said one GOP Insider. “Still the most charismatic option,” added another. “You never know.”

The standings were determined by Republican Insiders who were asked to rank, one-thru-five, the top five contenders who they think are most likely to capture the GOP 2012 presidential nomination. A first-place vote is worth five points; a second-place vote is worth four points and so on. The contenders’ rankings reflect the percentage of total points each receives out of the maximum possible. For example, Mitt Romney received a rating of 83, meaning he received 83 percent of the possible 520 points, the number he would have received if all 104 participants in the poll this week had ranked him first.

The National Journal Political Insiders Poll is a regular survey of political operatives, strategists, campaign consultants, and lobbyists in both parties. Below are the names of the Republican Insiders who are surveyed:

Graphic correction: A previous version of the graphic misspelled Jon Huntsman's first name.

GOP Political Insiders Dan Allen, Stan Anderson, Gary Andres, Saulius (Saul) Anuzis, Rich Ashooh, Whit Ayres, Brett Bader, Mitch Bainwol, Gary Bauer, David Beckwith, Paul Bennecke, Clark Benson, Wayne Berman, Brian Bieron, Charlie Black, Kirk Blalock, Carmine Boal, Jeff Boeyink, Ron Bonjean, Jeff Buley, Luke Byars, Nick Calio, Al Cardenas, Danny Carroll, Ron Christie, Jim Cicconi, Rob Collins, Cesar Conda, Jake Corman, Scott Cottington, Greg Crist, Diane Crookham-Johnson, Fergus Cullen, Tom Davis, Mike Dennehy, Ken Duberstein, Steve Duprey, Debi Durham, Sara Fagen, Frank Fahrenkopf, John Feehery, Don Fierce, Mindy Finn, Mindy Fletcher, Carl Forti, Alex Gage, Bruce A. Gates, Sam Geduldig, Adam Geller, Benjamin Ginsberg, David Girard-diCarlo, Bill Greener, Lanny Griffith, Janet Mullins Grissom, Doug Gross, Todd Harris, Steve Hart, Christopher Healy, Ralph Hellmann, Chris Henick, Terry Holt, David Iannelli, Ed Ingle, Clark Judge, David Keating, David Kensinger, Bob Kjellander, Ed Kutler, Chris LaCivita, Jim Lake, George S. LeMieux, Steve Lombardo, Kevin Madden, Joel Maiola, Gary Maloney, David Marin, Mary Matalin, Dan Mattoon, Brian McCormack, Mark McKinnon, Kyle McSlarrow, Ken Mehlman, Jim Merrill, Lisa Camooso Miller, Tim Morrison, Mike Murphy, Phil Musser, Ron Nehring, Terry Nelson, Neil Newhouse, David Norcross, Ziad Ojakli, Jack Oliver, Todd Olsen, Connie Partoyan, Dana Perino, Billy Piper, Van B. Poole, Tom Rath, Scott Reed, David Rehr, Tom Reynolds, Steve Roberts, Jason Roe, David Roederer, Dan Schnur, Russ Schriefer, Rich Schwarm, Brent Seaborn, Rick Shelby, Andrew Shore, Kevin Shuvalov, Don Sipple, Ken Spain, Fred Steeper, Bob Stevenson, Terry Sullivan, Eric Tanenblatt, Richard Temple, Heath Thompson, Jay Timmons, Warren Tompkins, Ted Van Der Meid, Dirk van Dongen, Jan van Lohuizen, Stewart Verdery, Dick Wadhams, John Weaver, Lezlee Westine, Dave Winston, Ginny Wolfe, and Fred Wszolek.

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