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Poll: Republicans Heart Huckabee

(AP / CBS)
The election may still be three years away, but it seems it's never too early to speculate: A USA Today/Gallup poll sizing up the potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates was released today. Taking the top spot? Former Arkansas governor (and 2008 presidential hopeful) Mike Huckabee.

The poll found that the top four Republican contenders for the presidential nomination are Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich. Seventy-one percent of declared Republicans would "seriously consider" voting for Huckabee, 65 would consider voting for Romney and for Palin, and 60 percent would consider voting for Gingrich.

Among Americans overall, the order remains the same: Huckabee leads, with 40 percent saying they would seriously consider voting for him. Romney closely follows with 39 percent. He's followed by Palin with 33 percent and Gingrich with 29 percent.

The results suggest that the identity of Obama's 2012 opponent will rest largely on who is selected by "the Republic faithful," even in states with open primaries. No more than 20 percent of Democrats and no more than 40 percent of independent voters say they would consider voting for any one candidate.

The poll also surveyed Americans on who they believe is qualified for the job of president. When it comes to Huckabee and Romney, the number of Americans who believe they are qualified for the job is larger than the number that would consider voting for them.

But here's something interesting: The results suggest that a greater percentage of Republicans - and Americans overall - would consider voting for Sarah Palin than believe she is qualified to be president. Sixty-five percent of Republicans and 33 percent of American adults would seriously consider voting for Palin, yet only 58 percent and 31 percent of these respective groups believe she is qualified for the job.

points out that all four top candidates either are releasing or have just released books. Palin's much-anticipated memoir Going Rogue is coming soon, and Huckabee published a book of twelve Christmas stories on Tuesday. Gingrich co-authored a book about George Washington and the Revolutionary War that was released last month, and Romney's No Apology: The Case for American Greatness is set to drop next March. The paper speculates that these candidates may be taking cues from President Obama, whose books The Audacity of Hope and Dreams of My Father helped lend him visibility and credibility.

Huckabee, despite his first-place finish, dismisses the results as meaningless.

"It's like speculating who's going to be the best actor next year when we don't even know what the movies are," he said to USA Today. (Indeed, it's worth remembering that President Obama wasn't on any presidential frontrunner lists back in 2005.)

Gallup, however, disagrees with Huckabee. "Early front-runner status in Republican nomination contests is important, because historically, that person usually has won the nomination," the polling group asserts.

This poll was conducted among 1.021 American adults between October 31 and November 1, 2009. The results contain a maximum margin of error of seven points.

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