By Michael O’Brien
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) enjoy the most intense support among Republicans in the field of possible GOP presidential candidates, a new poll found Tuesday.
A new Gallup poll calculating each potential Republican candidate’s “positive intensity score” — the difference between a candidate’s strongly favorable numbers and his or her strongly unfavorable numbers — put Huckabee, the winner of the 2008 Iowa caucuses, at the top.
Huckabee and Bachmann, the leader of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus, led the pack of Republicans, as measured by the positive intensity index. They were followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Some of the candidates who scored low on the index had scores driven by their low name-identification numbers at this point. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels checked in at the bottom of the rankings.
Gallup’s intensity index might not be a good measure of which Republicans lead in the primary race for the party’s nomination in 2012. But it does suggest which candidates enjoy some of the most loyal support and could carry voters with them throughout the rest of 2011, and going into next year’s primary contests.
The poll also hints at whose support would be most valuable to other candidates should some of the other Republicans now considering a run choose not to pursue a campaign, or eventually drop out. There have been murmurs, for instance, that figures like Huckabee or Bachmann might opt against running for president, meaning that their eventual endorsements could carry weight, given the intensity of their supporters.
The Gallup poll, conducted Feb. 28-March 13, has a 3 percent margin of error.