A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely GOP Primary Voters, taken following the candidates’ Monday night debate, shows Romney earning 33% support, with Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann a surprise second at 19%. Georgia businessman Herman Cain is in third place with 10% of the vote.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich picks up nine percent (9%) support, followed by Texas Congressman Ron Paul with seven percent (7%), ex-Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty at six percent (6%) and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum also earning six percent (6%). Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who did not participate in the debate but is expected to announce his candidacy on Tuesday, gets two percent (2%) of the vote.
Ed Morrissey spots a few "counter-intuitive" nuggets buried within the crosstabs:
Rasmussen’s survey has a couple of counter-intuitive results as well. Despite Bachmann’s standing as a Tea Party favorite and the perception of Tea Party opposition to Romney, the two are tied among those who identify as Tea Party members, at 26% each. But the more interesting result comes in the crosstabs, where Bachmann actually leads the field among independent voters, 23/21 over Romney, with 17% backing Herman Cain, despite being seen by far as the most conservative candidate in the field.
So Romney, then Bachmann, eh? That combination has Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto ruminating over a mix-and-match 2012 ticket:
Whereas the argument for Pawlenty is that he is most things to all people--that few voters have any reason to be against him--Bachmann stirs genuine enthusiasm among two of the Republican factions most wary of Romney: the Tea Party and the religious right. A Romney-Bachmann ticket would be balanced in terms of ideology (he's moderate, she's conservative), governing style (he's technocratic, she's idealistic), religion (he's Mormon, she's evangelical) and, of course, sex.
This column has no brief for Romney, but strictly as political analysis, we'd say a Romney-Bachmann ticket looks more formidable than the McCain-Palin ticket that lost in 2008. Romney, unlike McCain, has executive and private-sector experience. He's in his mid-60s, old enough that his maturity makes for an attractive contrast with Barack Obama, but not so old that anyone will wonder if he's up to the job.
Taranto also offers this tangential, but irresistible, historical factoid:
An interesting aside: A Romney-Bachmann ticket, or a Romney-Pawlenty one for that matter, would combine candidates from the only state Richard Nixon lost in 1972 and the only state Reagan lost in 1984.
The Rasmussen numbers also underscore a frustrating reality for the Pawlenty campaign: T-Paw continues to languish in the mid-single digits -- which makes his decision to take a pass on hammering "Obamneycare" even more puzzling. On the other hand, Rich Lowry is right: There's lots of time left. Democrat-aligned pollster PPP also has a new poll out showing Romney ahead -- though the rest of the pack is jumbled. Its most intriguing finding could be this analysis of Sarah Palin's standing with the party faithful:
Palin continues to have the highest favorability of the potential Republican candidates at 62%, putting her well ahead of Romney's 55%, Pawlenty's 44%, Cain's 40%, and Gingrich's 36%. But there just continues to be a disconnect between GOP voters liking Palin and thinking she would be a good President or Presidential candidate. Her popularity with the base is undeniable...but so is the fact that she would have an exceptionally difficult path to the nomination even if she did decide to make the race.
Are surveys on a primary election season that doesn't start for nine months wildly premature and generally useless? Yes -- although polling data helps drive campaigns and the money game. But polls are the crack-cocaine of politics. I'll admit: I'm an addict, and I'd bet most of you are, too. Having said that, who's up for some idle speculation? Question: If you could assemble a dream ticket based only on the names in the Rasmussen and PPP polls, what pairing would you favor?
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography