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Magazine / Political Insiders Poll

Political Insiders Poll: Who is Leading the GOP Field?

August 4, 2011

Rank the top five candidates, 1 through 5, in terms of who you think is most likely to capture the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

Republicans (107 Votes)

Candidate and Rank: 1. Romney
Index Score: 93

Candidate and Rank: 2. Perry
Index Score: 74


Candidate and Rank: 3. Pawlenty
Index Score: 40

Candidate and Rank: 4. Bachmann
Index Score: 35

Candidate and Rank: 5. Huntsman
Index Score: 22

Candidate and Rank: 6. Christie
Index Score: 10

Candidate and Rank: 7. Cain
Index Score: 3

Candidate and Rank:  7. Giuliani
Index Score: 3

Candidate and Rank: 7. Palin
Index Score: 3

Candidate and Rank: 7. Paul
Index Score: 3


Mitt Romney

“Professional, experienced operation. Unexciting, but best hope to beat Obama.”

“No one is laying a glove on him.”

“Romney continues to set an impressive pace.”

“Republicans decide whose turn it is before the race even starts. Nobody, announced or otherwise, has the stature, passion, or money to take this away from Romney.”

“It is still Romney’s to lose. Perry will alter the landscape, but there is nothing about how the GOP handles its primaries that suggests he will emerge as the nominee.”

“A stronger front-runner than understood. Methodically he is taking states off the board. The debt crisis plays to the economic cluster of issues that he owns. Changers come and challengers go, and he remains constant.”

“The Republican electorate is predictable, and Romney will be the nominee if the tea party doesn’t overtake the process.”

“Romney is still the candidate to beat, but the fact that people are craving an alternative shows his weakness.”

“It’s effectively a two-man race between Romney and Perry. If Palin runs, it’s a one-man race with Romney on top.”

“Looking more and more likely that generic ‘not Obama’ candidate will do just fine.”

“Even if he survives, Perry drags him too far right to win the general election.”

“The three-ring circus going on around him makes him look more presidential by the day.”

Rick Perry

“If Rick Perry gets in, he becomes the immediate challenger to Romney.”

“Not sure the country is ready for another Texas governor, but at least his name isn’t Bush.”

“Perry looks like Captain America now, but could be a dud. The first few weeks will be the key indicator. I fear the current field is a ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of candidate appeal.”

“If and when Perry gets in, he will shoot to the top, as he can draw from the tea party and establishment voters. He has more juice than Bachmann and is viewed as more authentic than Romney.”

“He’s a tea partier with governing credentials. That’s a tough combo to beat, in a primary anyway.”

“This is where he fits ‘on paper,’ but until he actually gets in, it is hard to say. It is a conceptual candidacy based totally on assumptions. Assumptions don’t always stand up when you get in the game andhave to play by another set of rules than your own.”

“If he gets in, he will be formidable, but he will be getting in late, and historically that hasn’t worked.”

“Perry is the only viable candidate left who has potential support from both longtime and new Republican activists.”

“Today’s flavor, but will likely fade under close scrutiny.”

Tim Pawlenty

“Maybe his Iowa organization brings him back to life in Ames.”

“Pawlenty will be the veep no matter who is nominated, unless T-Paw wins the Iowa Straw Poll. Then, watch out.”

“Has trouble closing, but is a solid citizen who can beat Obama.”

“Failure to launch.”

“Pawlenty’s best shot is if everyone above collapses.”

“The only story the press likes to write more than the end of a candidacy is the return to life of a candidacy seen as on the edge of defeat. That is the good news, but the reality is that’s hard to do.”

“He is running on fumes, but he can still turn it around.”

Michele Bachmann

“She will never be nominated, but this is where she fits right now. She must win the straw poll impressively—not to be KO’d when Perry gets in. She does have an undeniable brand and passion on her side.”

“She will eventually implode, but for now she is formidable.”

“If Fox [News] determines our nominee the way it picked Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell.”

“Bachmann’s surge is already starting to hit a philosophical ceiling.”

“Too far out there for general election.”

Jon Huntsman

“Huntsman is ranked because we are assuming that he will fund a significant percentage of his campaign … at least through New Hampshire.”

“He’d have to beat Perry and Romney in New Hampshire. I guess it’s possible.”

“Not sure about the strategy, but he is appealing to a specific wing of the party in a crowded field—the elitist and moderate wing.”

Chris Christie

“Christie would be dangerous even this late if he got in.”

“If Christie were to run, he would be No. 1.”

Herman Cain

“Hanging tough, but doubts remain over his experience. Is the presidency an entry-level job?”

Rudy Giuliani

“If voters come to the conclusion they want someone who can actually win and has some real leadership skills.”


Methodology: In tallying the rankings, a first-place vote was worth 5 points, a second-place vote was worth 4 points, and so on. The Insiders index reflects the percentage of points that each contender received out of the maximum possible. For example, Mitt Romney scored an index rating of 93, meaning he received 93 percent of the possible 535 points, the number he would have if all 107 participants in the poll this week had ranked him first. Some GOP Insiders ranked fewer than five candidates.

Also receiving an index rating: Rick Santorum, 2 percent; Jeb Bush, Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan, Buddy Roemer, “none,” 1 percent each; Gary Johnson, less than 1 percent.



Percentage of first-pace votes
Romney: 75%
Perry: 18%
Pawlenty: 2%
Huntsman: 2%
Other: 3%

Percentage of second-place votes
Perry: 55%
Romney: 18%
Pawlenty: 15%
Bachmann: 7%
Christie: 3%
Other: 3%


Who would be the Republicans’ strongest presidential nominee in 2012?

Democrats (105 votes)

Mitt Romney                        
August 2011: 48%
June 2011: 27%

Rick Perry            
August 2011: 20%
June 2011: 5%

Jon Huntsman                        
August 2011: 16%
June 2011: 25%

Chris Christie            
August 2011: 6%
June 2011: 11%

Tim Pawlenty            
August 2011: 6%
June 2011: 20%

Also receiving votes: Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rudy Giuliani, “doesn’t matter,” 1% each.



“Money talks. Good looking. Job-creation credentials are real.”

“He’s got economic credibility, he seems smart, he has a bit of polish, and he doesn’t seem like a complete loon. None of the others have that whole package.”

“He is the best counter to Obama. He is an executive, while Obama was a legislator. Romney ran a company; Obama never made a payroll. Romney created jobs; unemployment is 9 percent-plus under Obama. Romney balanced his state’s budget; U.S. has a $14 trillion deficit.”

“Lesser of a whole lot of evils!”

“Romney can win the Republican nomination and compete for swing voters in the general. No other candidate can do both.”

“No one is really looking better. I would say ‘other,’ but the potential candidates that might be better than Romney have all demurred.”

“He forces Obama to defend the Democratic base states and will be able to talkabout the economy better than any other Republican.”

“Running a good campaign; learned a lot from last try.”

“But they will never nominate him: It will be Rick Perry, who will be an embarrassment.”

“With Obama’s approval rating at 40 percent and [him] seemingly insensitive to jobs, Romney and either Bachmann or [Sen. Marco] Rubio would be a formidable [ticket].”

“It looks like he’s got the strongest campaign. He’s raised the most money, and he’s not part of the current morass in Washington.”

“ ‘Strongest’ is a relative term.”

“Has run before, looks presidential, and—unlike others—[is] not a total turn off to Dems and independents.”

“Strong business background in a bad economy is a plus for him, as is the Massachusetts health care plan in a general election.”

“The most sane [candidate] in a sea of crazies.”


“He appeals to the base, but he can be seen as a governor of a large and successful state. It may or may not be that, but you can make the argument.”

“Great record on jobs.”

“He unites the party—gets Christian Right and tea party really involved, and then he needs to pick a VP from Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Florida to solidify the Electoral College.”

“I’ve thought Romney for a long time, but he’s looking more and more like a McCain-Dole default-loser nominee. You can make a case that Perry can attract the reasonable while exciting the unreasonable in the Republican Party.”

“He has a great economic story to tell. He’s a governor. He knows how to target Hispanic voters.”


“He is a centrist with a fresh new face and an interesting background.”

“He doesn’t seem to be well positioned to actually get the nomination, but if he did, he has the tone and acceptability to provide disenchanted voters a palatable alternative.”

“There is no Ronald Reagan in the 2012 field, but Huntsman has the best chance of selling conservatism to a large number of swing voters.”

“Obama has gotten Americans comfortable with handsome, urbane capitalists.”


“Breathing attack or no—his candor is refreshing. And I am a D!”

“Christie combines the assets of a fresh face, take-no-prisoners let-me-tackle-it approach with deep reach into a major media market where R’s have to compete. He’s tough enough to get the nomination and smart enough to compete toe-to-toe with the president in the general.”

“He shows decisive leadership, which is a contrast from President Obama. He connects with Joe Six-Pack—another distinction from the incumbent.”


“He is moderate enough to attract disenchanted independents and can still draw the distinction on health care that Romney is unable to.”

“He’s sane. He knows how to manage. He’s a solid conservative. He won’t scare independent women.”

“T-Paw’s only problem is low-t [testosterone].”


Democratic Political Insiders Jill Alper, John Anzalone, Brad Bannon, Dave Beattie, Andy Bechhoefer, Cornell Belcher, Matt Bennett, Mitchell W. Berger, Mike Berman, Stephanie Bosh, Paul Brathwaite, Donna Brazile, Mark Brewer, Ed Bruley, George Bruno, Deb Callahan, Bonnie Campbell, Bill Carrick, Guy Cecil, Martin J. Chavez, Tony Coelho, Larry Cohen, Jerry Crawford, Brendan Daly, Jeff Danielson, Peter Daou, Howard Dean, Scott DeFife, Jim Demers, Tad Devine, David Di Martino, Debbie Dingell, Monica Dixon, Patrick Dorton, Pat Dujakovich, Anita Dunn, Jeff Eller, Steve Elmendorf, Carter Eskew, Vic Fazio, Peter Fenn, Scott Ferson, Jim Fleischmann, Tina Flournoy, Don Foley, Jeffrey Forbes, Vincent Frillici, Gina Glantz, Niles Godes, John Michael Gonzalez, Joe Grandmaison, Anna Greenberg, Stan Greenberg, Pat Griffin, Larry Grisolano, Michael Gronstal, Lisa Grove, Marcia Hale, Jill Hanauer, Dick Harpootlian, Paul Harstad, Laura Hartigan, Doug Hattaway, Mike Henry, Karen Hicks, Leo Hindery Jr., Harold Ickes, Marcus Jadotte, John Jameson, Steve Jarding, Jonathon Jones, Jim Jordan, Gale Kaufman, Lisa Kountoupes, Celinda Lake, David Lang, Penny Lee, Chris Lehane, Jeff Link, Bob Maloney, Jim Manley, Steve Marchand, Jim Margolis, Paul Maslin, Keith Mason, Susan McCue, Gerald McEntee, Tom McMahon, Phil McNamara, David Medina, Michael Meehan, Mark Mellman, John Merrigan, Michael Monroe, Steve Murphy, Janet Napolitano, David Nassar, Marcia Nichols, John Norris, Tom Ochs, Tom O’Donnell, Jeffrey Peck, Debora Pignatelli, Tony Podesta, Jack Quinn, Larry Rasky, Mame Reiley, Ed Rendell, Steve Ricchetti, Will Robinson, Steve Rosenthal, David Rudd, Ryan Rudominer, John Ryan, Michael Sargeant, Stephanie Schriock, Terry Shumaker, Sean Sinclair, Phil Singer, Erik Smith, Doug Sosnik, Greg Speed, Darry Sragow, Ken Strasma, Doug Thornell, Jeffrey Trammell, Ed Turlington, Rick Wiener, James Williams, JoDee Winterhof, Brian Wolff, Jon Youngdahl, and Jim Zogby.

GOP Political Insiders Dan Allen, Stan Anderson, Gary Andres, Saulius (Saul) Anuzis, Rich Ashooh, Whit Ayres, Brett Bader, Mitch Bainwol, Brian Baker, 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, Alex Castellanos, Ron Christie, Jim Cicconi, Jonathan Collegio, Rob Collins, Cesar Conda, Jake Corman, Scott Cottington, Jay Cranford, Greg Crist, Diane Crookham-Johnson, Fergus Cullen, Tom Davis, Mike Dennehy, Ken Duberstein, 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, Jonathan Grella, Lanny Griffith, Janet Mullins Grissom, Doug Gross, Todd Harris, Steve Hart, Christopher Healy, Ralph Hellmann, Chris Henick, Terry Holt, David Iannelli, Ed Ingle, Jim Innocenzi, Clark Judge, David Keating, David Kensinger, Bob Kjellander, Ed Kutler, Chris LaCivita, Jim Lake, Steven Law, 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, Kevin O’Neill, 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, David Tamasi, 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, Fred Wszolek, and Matthew Zablud.

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