For all his tough talk and firm governing, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is apparently making Americans feel all warm and fuzzy.
In a new Quinnipiac poll out Monday morning, registered voters nationwide gave Christie the highest average favorable marks of any current politician — even placing him above President Obama. Yet while that says something positive about Christie himself, it does not bode so well for the Republican Party in general. That result, combined with the comparatively weak showing by the presumed candidates for the GOP presidential nomination, underscores the absence of an enthusing, true Republican front runner heading into 2012.
The poll asked respondents to rate, on a scale of 1-100, how favorably they viewed a number of political figures on a “national thermometer.”
Christie posted the top marks of active politicians with an average rating of 57, slightly better than Obama’s 56.5. First Lady Michelle Obama topped the list overall at 60.1, followed by former President Bill Clinton at 59.2.
Despite his apparent national popularity, Christie has repeatedly said he won’t make a play for the presidency in 2012. He even joked in one speech that the only way to convince people he’s serous about not running would be for him to commit suicide.
Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, the two Republicans who have consistently polled at the top of the GOP field in national and statewide surveys, came in at 51.8 and 50.4 in the poll, respectively. Both Romney and Huckabee are fairly well known — only one fifth of respondents said they didn’t know each candidate well enough to form an opinion of them — yet their lukewarm results suggest Americans would treat a potential White House bid by either of them tepidly.
As for Sarah Palin, another potential candidate who polls near the top in surveys of potential Republican primaries, she earned one of the worst scores in the poll with 38.2 average.
Compare those scores to former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who posted a 48.2 rating despite two-thirds of respondents having no clue who he was. As he elevates his national profile, he could easily surpass Romney and Huckabee and emerge as a viable challenger to Obama. So too could someone like Jon Huntsman, who netted a 47.9 rating even though nearly 85% of respondents didn’t know who he was.
Certainly there is no guarantee that any of the smaller name Republicans will suddenly vault to prominence and become as a popular alternative to the current front runners. But if Republicans hope to reclaim the presidency next year, they’ll likely need a fresh face to do so.
The Quinnipiac poll was conducted February 21-28 among 1,887 registered voters nationwide. It has a margin of error of 2.3%.