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2 polls: Mitt Romney takes GOP lead after Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump bow out

Published: Thursday, May 19 2011 10:55 a.m. MDT

Two new polls confirm what Mitt Romney's recent fundraising frenzy suggested: Romney is now the clear frontrunner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

Polling results from Suffolk University and Gallup peg Romney as the leader of the GOP pack. In both polls Romney received support from 20 percent of likely Republican voters; furthermore, Suffolk and Gallup also agree that Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich are running second and third, respectively, among potential Republican presidential candidates.

And Romney's favorable polling results come right on the heels of the National Call Day held Monday in Las Vegas that raised more than $10 million for Team Romney.

Suffolk's poll credits Romney as the chief beneficiary of the decisions by Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump to not run for president.

"With Huckabee and Trump out of the race, the whole dynamic has changed," said David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Boston's Suffolk University. "Romney is the clear front-runner now; that's a position he'll have to be prepared to defend over the coming months."

In the Gallup poll released Wednesday, pollster Frank Newport attributed the positive showings for Romney, Palin and Gingrich to their strong name recognition.

"Palin, Gingrich, and Romney are the three best-known candidates," Newport wrote. "They top the list of Republicans' preferences. Ron Paul and (Michele) Bachmann are the only other potential candidates with name recognition above 50 percent. They are also next in line in terms of Republican nomination support."

There are still plenty of mountains left for Romney to climb, though. As Neil King Jr. points out at the Wall Street Journal, "four out of 10 Republicans said they were still dissatisfied with the GOP field. And none of the current crop of candidates, according to a Suffolk University poll of likely voters, could beat President Barack Obama if the election were held now."

Unlike Palin — who still won't say whether she intends to brave the presidential fray — Gingrich already announced his presidential candidacy. However, in the aftermath of Gingrich's criticism Sunday of a House Republican plan to reform Medicaid, many pundits wonder if Gingrich's campaign may now effectively be over before it had much of a chance to build up some momentum.

Writing for the New York Times, Michael Shear said, "During his appearance on NBC's 'Meet the Press' on Sunday, Mr. Gingrich, the former House speaker, clinically diagnosed what he called his own 'great weakness' as he pursues the presidency: a lack of personal and political discipline. … And yet, the frank admission was even more striking because it came at the end of an interview in which Mr. Gingrich proved himself completely unable to follow his own advice."

EMAIL: jaskar@desnews.com

twitter: askargo

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