Mike Huckabee,  Mitch Daniels,  Mitt Romney,  Newt Gingrich,  Polling,  President 2012,  Sarah Palin

President 2012 GOP Poll Watch: Mike Huckabee is Strongest as President Obama Announces

According to the latest Gallup Poll.

With President Obama officially announcing his candidacy for re-election on Monday, the question of whom he will run against becomes even more relevant. Three possible Republican candidates — Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich — are currently best situated among Republicans nationwide in terms of name recognition and Gallup Positive Intensity Scores. Sarah Palin and Ron Paul are also well known, but generate lower net enthusiasm from those who know them. Of the less well-known potential GOP candidates, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and Tim Pawlenty have the highest Positive Intensity Scores.

Here is the positive intensity score chart.

And, the name recognition chart.

So, what does all mean?

Gallup’s ongoing tracking shows that former Arkansas Gov. and current Fox News commentator Huckabee is the GOP leader at this point, based on his high name recognition and advantage in Positive Intensity. Huckabee also leads when Gallup asks Republicans whom they would support for the nomination. It remains unclear, however, whether Huckabee will end up running for his party’s nomination.

Gingrich and Romney are clearly in second place behind Huckabee, based on their name identification and Positive Intensity Scores. However, neither man generates levels of support from Republicans that are as high as Huckabee’s, and neither has been able to change his status much over the last month. Gingrich has been more public about his intention to run for president, while Romney has maintained a somewhat lower national profile, even while traveling extensively to early primary and caucus states.

As is the case for Huckabee, Palin’s intentions about running for president next year are unknown. By virtue of her inclusion on the national GOP ticket in 2008 and her ongoing television exposure, she is almost universally known among Republicans nationwide. But Palin’s positioning in the minds of Republicans who do know her is weaker than that of other potential candidates: 23% of those who recognize her have a strongly favorable opinion, compared with 7% who are strongly unfavorable.

The potential for other less well-known Republicans to increase their name recognition and become serious contenders for their party’s nomination is the interesting question going forward. The data clearly show that Bachmann and Cain have a reaction-generating edge among those who know them, which in theory puts them in a position to make an impact if they can become better known. Pawlenty, who appears to be making a serious run at the presidency, is known by about 4 out of 10 Republicans and has a Positive Intensity Score slightly below Cain’s and Bachmann’s. Other, less well-known candidates such as Mississippi Gov. Barbour, Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, and Daniels currently do not generate high positive emotions from those who know them, something that would need to change if they are to contend for the nomination.

The GOP Presidential race is wide-open is what these polls really say.

Mike Huckabee should he choose to run and there has been little indication that he would, would be in the best position with Romney and Gingrich trailing – with little enthusiasm. Sarah Palin, who has been AWOL from Presidential speculation lately is behind the three.

My guess is that a candidate who is not registering on the radar, like Mitch Daniels, Rudy Giuliani or Chris Christie may indeed join the race and the perceived vacuum of GOP candidates.