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August 24th, 2010

Iowa Stubborn: Palin Faces Difficult Road in Iowa

Last week,’s 2012 caucus poll showed that Sarah Palin garnered the support of 11 percent of Iowa Republicans.  Palin’s 11 percent put her in fourth place behind Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich.

Any candidate who is considering a presidential run for the first time would gladly start off in double-digits in Iowa. However, Sarah Palin isn’t just another is a long list of potential presidential candidates.  She’s the former Vice Presidential nominee, a Fox News Contributor, and the darling of the Tea Party Movement in America.

Of all the potential 2012 presidential candidates, Palin might also be the best known. However, poll shows that she would bring a considerable amount of baggage to the race.

Palin’s favorable/unfavorable numbers are toxic for any candidate, but especially so for a candidate who was on the national ticket less than four years ago.  Of all the politicians that were polled, Palin’s unfavorable numbers were the highest.  Only 37 percent of the Iowans polled had a favorable opinion of her, while 57 percent had an unfavorable opinion of the former Alaska governor.

Palin’s unfavorable number is six percent higher than Governor Chet Culver’s.  Culver, an incumbent Democrat, trails his Republican challenger Terry Branstad by 18 points.  Palin’s unfavorable numbers are also 11 points worse in Iowa than President Obama’s.

Making matter worse for Palin is that the poll shows that, of the 57 percent who have an unfavorable view of her, 41 percent of them strongly hold that position. The entire breakdown of her numbers is 16 percent strongly favorable, 21 percent somewhat favorable, 17 percent somewhat unfavorable, and 41 percent strongly unfavorable.

When compared to other potential 2012 Republican candidates, you can see just how much work Palin will have to do to be competitive in the Iowa.  Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa Caucuses in 2008, has a 48 percent favorable and 26 percent unfavorable rating.  Mitt Romney, who finished second in Iowa, has a 44 percent favorable and 32 percent unfavorable rating.

The poll also discovered more bad news for Palin when it tested how some of the potential Republican candidates would fair against President Obama in a head-to-head match up.  In the generic head-to-head question, the Republican candidate beat President Obama 45 percent to 38 percent.  Out of the six candidates that were included in our head-to-head poll verses Obama, only two of them, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, came out on top.

In addition to Huckabee and Romney, the poll also tested Palin, Haley Barbour, Rick Santorum, and Tim Pawlenty.  Of the six, Palin performed the worst.  In a hypothetical matchup between Palin and Obama, Obama garnered 53 percent compared to Palin’s 36 percent.  It’s also important to note that President Obama only crossed the 50% threshold when he was matched up against Palin.

Palin’s troubles in Iowa can be attributed to a number of things.  The first of which is overexposure.  No matter what Palin does, it makes news.  One would be hard-pressed to find another political figure besides the President himself who is so closely scrutinized.  Living under that kind of microscope means that people know everything from who she is endorsing, to the never-ending saga of her daughter’s relationship with Levi Johnston.

She is also at a disadvantage when it comes to being perceived as a serious thinker on a number of issues.  Palin’s strength lies in her ability to communicate to everyday Americans, but the traditional news media is fixated on blowing any misstep she might make out of proportion.  Ever since being nominated by John McCain in 2008, Palin has failed to be convincing on a number of serious issues.

The other factor that may be at work here is the foul reaction that her endorsement of Terry Branstad received when she endorsed his campaign just days before the June 8th primary.  A number of Vander Plaats supporters thought that she went out of her way to get involved in the race, which has caused some hard feelings.  Still, while there are a number of vocal Vander Plaats supporters who are upset with her, it’s hard to believe that her poor numbers in Iowa can be solely attributed to them.

Palin’s poor numbers in Iowa create a serious obstacle for her if she wants to run for president.  If she wants to turn those numbers around and leave open the possibility of a 2012 run, she ought to give Iowa a try.  Iowans expect to see the candidates early and often, but Palin has basically ignored the home of the First-in-the-Nation Caucuses since the 2008 campaign ended.

Iowa is a state in which Palin will have to perform well if she runs for president.  Her common-sense conservative approach and her folksy style should play well here in Iowa.   Her brand of politics would also play well with likely caucus goers who tend to be strong social and fiscal conservatives.

The problem for Palin is that if she can’t make it here, she’s not going to make it anywhere.  With Newt Gingrich already performing better than her in the polls,  Palin needs to make a decision on 2012 sooner than later.  Even if she’s not sure what she wants to do, a swing through Iowa might not hurt and would allow her to keep her options open.

About the poll: commissioned the poll in conjunction with Concordia Group LLC, an Iowa based public affairs company.   The poll was conducted by Voter/Consumer Research, a highly respected polling firm based in Washington D.C.  All interviews were conducted via telephone with trained interviewers at Voter/Consumer Research’s phone center in Houston, Texas, between July 25th and July 28th.  All interviews were conducted via telephone with trained interviewers at Voter/Consumer Research’s phone center in Houston, Texas, between July 25th and July 28th. The poll has a sample size of 500, and a margin of error of 4.39%. For further details click here.

Photo by Dave Davidson

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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