A national poll unveiled Thursday shows the race for the Republican presidential nomination is up in the air, with four candidates battling within the margin of error to lead the pack and three others right behind them.
The poll of Republican voters from across the nation, conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP), a firm with connections to prominent national Democrats, shows that former Gov. Mitt Romney, who formally kicked off his campaign on Thursday, and former Gov. Sarah Palin top the poll with 16 percent each. They are followed by former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota who took third with 13 percent, and businessman Herman Cain -- a favorite of the tea party movement, who is doing well in the polls this month -- in fourth with 12 percent. Three candidates -- former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota -- are all knotted together in fifth with 9 percent each. Former Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah trails with 4 percent.
The last poll from PPP, taken in May, had former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas (who said that month that he was not running) ahead, taking 19 percent, followed by Romney with 18 percent. Gingrich was in third with 13 percent, followed by Palin at 12 percent. The other candidates -- including billionaire Donald Trump, who also said he would not run -- polled in single digits.
With Palin -- who has not officially announced her candidacy or launched an exploratory committee -- taken out of the mix, Romney leads the poll with 20 percent. Bachmann and Gingrich move up in Palins absence, taking 13 percent -- enough to tie them with Pawlenty for second place. Cain stays at 12 percent. Paul follows with 11 percent, while Huntsman remains at 4 percent.
The Republicans surveyed have favorable opinions of two of the leading candidates, but the poll finds that a third one was upside down. More than three-fifths of the Republicans surveyed -- 61 percent -- have a favorable opinion of Palin, while 30 percent view her as unfavorable. They have a harsher view of Romney, who won 54 percent favorability, while 30 percent view him unfavorably. Gingrich garnered only 39 percent favorability in the poll, while 44 percent view him as unfavorable.
The poll of 574 Republican primary voters across the nation was taken between May 23 and 25 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percent.
Other declared and possible candidates for the Republican nomination include former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico, activist Fred Karger, U.S. Rep. Peter King of New York, U.S. Rep. Thad McCotter of Michigan, former state Chief Justice Roy Moore of Alabama, former Gov. George Pataki of New York, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, former Gov. Buddy Roemer of Louisiana, and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.