Florida: Romney 52, Huckabee 21, Palin 18

We’ve done a million posts about this three-way match-up but I don’t think we’ve done one yet about a key swing state.

Not what I would have predicted.

Florida’s the first really important stop on the GOP calendar that we’ve looked at, and Romney’s lead there is overwhelming. He gets 52% to 21% for Huckabee and 18% for Palin. It’s closer, but still a double digit advantage, in Colorado. There Romney gets 44% to 25% for Palin and 17% for Huckabee.

In each state Romney has a big advantage with both moderates and conservatives, although he is particularly strong at this point with the center of his party. In Florida he leads Huckabee by 28 with conservatives and has a 36 point advantage over both Huckabee and Palin with moderates. In Colorado he’s up 8 on Palin with conservatives, but leads her by 41 with moderates.

One particular source of strength for Romney at this very early stage is that he’s doing even better with senior citizens than the overall electorate. In Florida he’s up 47 with voters over 65 and in Colorado it’s a 21 point margin.

The same poll has Rubio up 33 points on Crist, which is right in line with other recent polls. The sample appears to skew a bit old — 52 percent of respondents are 46 to 65 and another 23 percent are over 65 — but that’s actually not far off from the age split in the 2008 Florida primary exit poll. The most shocking data set:


The same poll has Rubio leading Crist 72/15 among conservatives, which sounds about right. The question: What on earth happened to Sarahcuda? Third in Florida, behind even Huckabee — among conservatives, no less — when the other tea-party darling is crushing the sitting governor in the same demographic? Part of this may be due to her greater name recognition; her flaws are well known compared to Mitt’s and Huck’s so they benefit temporarily from public ignorance. But even if that’s true, it means a good-sized chunk of primary voters are already sufficiently ill disposed towards her that they’re opting for Romney or Huckabee more or less sight unseen. Even with Mitt’s book tour and Huck’s Fox show, they don’t have remotely as high a profile as she does after landing a spot on the ticket, selling an enormous volume of books, and being covered around the clock by the media. And yet, somehow, she trails both of them. Advantage: Ziegler.

Exit question: Is there any way at all that Romney doesn’t run after a poll like this? All he needs is one early state win — New Hampshire or Michigan — to give him a little mo heading into Florida into 2012. In fact, he might end up thinking of Florida as his firewall: Even if a social con takes South Carolina, Mitt’s still got Miami ahead to kill his opponent’s momentum.