Oh my: Huckabee 45, Obama 44

The timing’s awkward given Huck’s comment last night that Brownmania has inadvertently set Obama on the path to reelection, but even so, this is the first poll I can remember seeing — anywhere — that has The One trailing a Republican.

Second look at Huckabee?

Mike Huckabee has a 45-44 advantage over Obama, aided largely by a 44-38 lead with independents. There continues to be no evidence of any negative fallout for Huckabee after murders of police officers committed by an ex-Arkansas inmate whose sentence he had commuted. His 35/29 favorability breakdown is actually slightly better than it was in November before that incident.

Mitt Romney does the next best, trailing Obama 44-42. His favorability is 36/32, and he’s the most popular Republican among independents (41/32). Romney actually matches Huckabee with GOP voters this month and gets over 50%, ending a trend in his numbers that had seemed to spell difficulty for snagging a Republican nomination.

Sarah Palin trails Obama 49-41 largely because she loses 14% of the Republican vote to him, making her the only one of the GOP candidates we tested who Obama could get double digit crossover support against. At the same time Palin continues to be the most well liked potential GOP candidate within her party- at 71% favorability. Her problem appears to be that the Republicans who don’t care for her will go so far as to vote for Obama instead of her.

Her favorables stand at 42/51, which is better than they were after she resigned. The recurring problem with trying to compare her data to Huckabee’s and Romney’s is that she’s far more widely known than they are, so the undecided column end up turning things into apples and oranges. For instance, her favorables among Republicans are 71/19/10; Mitt’s and Huck’s are identical at 56/17/27. If 15 of that 27 percent of undecideds breaks into the favorable column, they’re at parity with her (although she’d likely still be ahead given the way her own undecideds would break). Same goes for the Hispanic vote: Head to head with Obama, she takes seven percent more than either Huckabee or Romney do, but in their cases fully 13 percent of Hispanics are undecided. By the same token, Palin is at 26/68/6 among moderates while Huck is at 21/37/43 and Romney at 30/38/33. Her disapproval seems eye-popping compared to theirs, but imagine where Huckabee will be once his undecideds shake out. Not hard to imagine him cracking 60 percent too.

The interesting numbers are how they do head to head against Obama among Republicans. PPP oversells it a bit: It’s true that more GOPers cross over and vote for The One if she’s the nominee, but her numbers aren’t dramatically different from Romney’s. She pulls 77/14/9 and he pulls 77/9/14. Huckabee does noticeably better at 82/10/8, putting him at +72 compared to +63 for her. Fox News posed the same hypothetical match-ups in its own recent poll and it too found more Republican deserters if Palin’s the nominee than if it’s Romney. In the Fox data, against Obama, she pulls 68/17/4 while Mitt pulls 74/9/7. (They didn’t ask about Huckabee, likely because he’s an employee, but Gingrich pulled 63/13/10.) Exit question: What can she do to win back the Republicans who are down on her? Besides campaigning for Maverick, I mean.

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