Who Wins the GOP "Dark Horse" Primary?

The folks at Rasmussen are either geniuses or they have way too much time on their hands. I can never make up my mind which. In any event they continue to occupy themselves with a dizzying array of scenarios to question Americans on, generally just when they are sitting down to dinner. This week’s offering is a rather odd question where they want to know who will win the GOP nomination… if none of the people we think might win the nomination decide to run.

What if they held a Republican Primary contest and the front-runners didn’t show up? Or what if voters look for anybody but the front-runner? How do primary voters view the dark horses who are possible contenders for the party’s 2012 presidential nomination?

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely GOP Primary Voters finds that Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann earns 27% support when pitted against eight other possible second-tier candidates. Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania earns 12% of the vote, while Georgia businessman Herman Cain picks up nine percent (9%).

Texas Governor Rick Perry gets seven percent (7%) of the likely primary vote, followed by Jon Huntsman, former Utah governor and ex-ambassador to China, with three percent (3%) backing. Former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer, retired New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter each pick up one percent (1%) of the vote.

You can fairly poll on a wide variety of topics and come up with some statistically meaningful results, make no mistake. But the question at least needs to begin with a basic assumption which is fairly incontrovertible. This one seems to be built on a foundation which involves far more speculation and creative judgment than could be judged as scientific.

First of all, how does one arrive at definitive groupings of who is a “dark horse” and who is a front-runner? Looking at nothing but the most recent math, The Donald is the presumptive GOP nominee, but particularly after his one night stand-up routine in Sin City, does anyone really think he can win? (Assuming he even has any real intention of running?) Is he still a “front-runner?”

Palin and Huckabee, sure. But… are they definitely running? We all know Mittens wants to run more than life itself, but he’s been rather busy shooting himself in the foot lately. And where is Pawlenty? He isn’t put in with the “dark horses.” Look, I love me some T-Paw, but is he one of the front-runners now? But he’s clearly at least as much in the running – if not more so – than quite a few on their “second tier” list. The polls are constantly shifting, so it’s tough to say where Rasmussen came up with the break point to determine where they began listing people with the rather pejorative “second tier” moniker.

But assuming it’s somewhere in the ballpark, how does the list look to you? Just for fun, I matched up this poll’s results with the answers supplied by Hot Air’s readers to a question posed by Patrick Ishmael not too long ago. He asked who you would support if Palin was taken out of the race. (A good benchmark since the HA readership doesn’t come up with many other answers if you leave her in.) If we then remove the rest of the Rasmussen designated front-runners the order you lined them up in was: (Provided in raw vote count for comparison, not percentage)

  1. Bachmann 621
  2. Cain 444
  3. Santorum 51
  4. Huntsman 6
  5. Johnson 3

Rasmussen had:

  1. Bachmann 27%
  2. Santorum 12%
  3. Cain 9%
  4. Perry 7%
  5. Huntsman 3%
  6. Roemer / Johnson / McCotter 1%

Interestingly enough, Hot Air’s readers really don’t come out all that differently from the rest of the country in terms of the finishing order, with one notable exception: Santorum and Cain are pretty much reversed. Cain is wildly popular with Hot Air readers, but barely rises above the background noise level nationally. And Santorum is down in the grass at Hot Air, but shows some surprising potential according to Rasmussen.

Just something else to chew on for Sunday. Have at it.