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Giuliani is Leading GOP Contender If Front-Runners Drop Out

So what if Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich decide not to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 or their campaigns falter in the early going? Who will the GOP turn to?

That’s what Rasmussen Reports asked Likely Republican Primary voters in a new national telephone survey. Not surprisingly the best known of the eight other prominent Republicans mentioned came out on top. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani emerges as the clear leader among this group with 29% support. Tim Pawlenty, who recently stepped down as governor of Minnesota, comes in second with 17%. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

The other possible contenders all earn single-digit support at this time: Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, with five percent (5%) each; Indiana Congressman Mike Pence, Georgia businessman Herman Cain and Jon Hunstman, the former Utah governor who is now U.S. ambassador to China, each with four percent (4%) of the primary vote, and John Thune, the junior U.S. senator from South Dakota (3%). Eleven percent (11%) like some other candidate, and one-in-five primary voters (19%) remain undecided.

With the exception of Cain, none of these individuals has said they are running for the presidency, although several have expressed interest.

History tells us that primary races are all about name recognition at this early stage, and right now, not surprisingly the best-known Republican hopefuls are running ahead among likely party primary voters. Romney leads the pack, followed by Palin, Huckabee and Newt Gingrich.  The new findings are no surprise since the top three vote-getters have been running closely in surveys for months.

But as Scott Rasmussen points out, “People shouldn’t assume that the party’s eventual nominee will come from among the early frontrunners. In the 2008 campaign, both Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani were leading at this time.”

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook. 

The survey of 1,000 Likely GOP Primary Voters was conducted on January 18, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. Likely GOP Primary Voters include both Republicans and unaffiliated voters likely to vote in a GOP Primary. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

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