Yet another poll finds Mike Huckabee leading the pack in a Republican presidential primary — this time in Nebraska. However, two challengers — Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich — each polled close enough to Huckabee to leave them all essentially locked in a dead heat.
Twenty-one percent of respondents in the PPP poll said Huckabee was their first choice for the party nod, while 19% went for Palin, and 18% said they supported Gingrich. The poll has a 4.3% margin of error, meaning that Huckabee’s slim lead is statistically insignificant.
Mitt Romney wasn’t too far behind the pack, garnering 15% of the vote, followed by Rep. Ron Paul (8%), Tim Pawlenty (4%), Sen. John Thune (3%), and Gov. Mitch Daniels (1%.)
The fact that Palin sits near the top of the potential slate should be troubling news for Republicans looking past the primary and on to the general election. A PPP release earlier this week showed Palin with only a razor-thin lead over Obama in a hypothetical 2012 matchup, 45% to 44%. Meanwhile, the other three frontrunners all led Obama by between eight and 13 points in the same poll.
No Democrat has carried Nebraska in the general election since Lyndon Johnson pulled off the feat against Barry Goldwater in 1964 — a year in which Johnson won all but six states. Before that, Nebraska had gone for the Republican candidate every year since 1936.
If Palin were to secure the GOP nomination, Obama would stand a chance of becoming the first Democratic presidential nominee in a half century to win the Cornhusker State.
The poll also reinforced what has emerged as a growing problem for Romney, his weakness with conservative voters. Twenty percent of conservatives backed Palin and Gingrich in the poll, while 21% went for Huckabee. Only 14% said they supported Romney.
The PPP poll was conducted January 26-27 among 519 registered Republican voters in Nebraska.