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What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls - Week Ending April 29, 2011

The names have it. At this stage of the presidential campaign process, name-recognition is what it’s largely all about.

That helps explain why likely Republican primary voters now give billionaire developer and reality TV star Donald Trump the edge over traditional candidates like Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee in the race to be the GOP’s presidential nominee in 2012. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich are tied for fourth place.

If Trump, Huckabee and Palin end up not running or stumble in the early going, New Jersey’s tough-guy Governor Chris Christie and former Massachusetts Governor Romney are nearly dead-even as far as likely primary voters are concerned.

But what if voters look for anybody but the front-runners? Given a list of nine dark horses who are possible contenders for the party’s 2012 presidential nomination, 27% of likely primary voters like Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachman. Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania earns 12% of the vote, while Georgia businessman Herman Cain picks up nine percent (9%).

Separate polling found that President Obama earns 42% to 49% support against all of the top Republican contenders, including Trump, Romney and Huckabee, suggesting that the contest remains a referendum on the incumbent’s performance.

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