Out of a handful of potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney fares the best in a hypothetical match-up against President Obama in a new national Quinnipiac poll of registered voters.
American voters put Romney and Mr. Obama in a statistical dead heat, with Romney leading 45 percent to 44 percent.
Mr. Obama also faces still competition from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in the poll, with the president leading 46 percent to 44 percent -- also a statistical dead heat.
The president, however, takes a strong lead in a match up against former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, beating her 48 percent to 40 percent. Mr. Obama also trounces Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is largely unknown to voters, 45 percent to 36 percent.
While Palin runs worse against Mr. Obama compared to other challengers, she nevertheless comes out on top in a hypothetical Republican primary, Quinnipiac shows.
Given a choice of eight viable Republican candidates, Republican and Republican-leaning voters chose Palin, giving her 19 percent of the vote. Romney comes in second with 18 percent, followed by Huckabee at 17 percent and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 15 percent. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty received 6 percent, and Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Sen. John Thune of South Dakota all received 2 percent. The poll, conducted November 8 - 15, had a margin of error of 2 percent.
"The best thing Obama has going for him when it comes to his re-election may be that at this point the Republicans don't have a candidate who is both nationally well-known and well- liked by a majority of voters," Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement.
The Quinnipiac poll shows that Palin is viewed the most negatively among American voters. Fifty-one percent said they have an unfavorable view of her, while 36 percent said they view her favorably. By comparison, Romney has a positive favorability rating of 38 percent to 26 percent, and Huckabee has a positive score of 41 percent to 25 percent.
Mr. Obama's favorability rating is split, 48 percent to 48 percent.
However, when the president is not matched up against a Republican opponent, more voters -- 49 percent -- say he does not deserve re-election (43 percent say he does).
As many as 27 percent of Democrats said in the poll they would like someone to challenge Mr. Obama in the primaries.
The president fared poorly with white voters and political independents -- just 34 percent of whites said he deserves re-election, and just 35 percent of political independents thought so.
Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.