Rasmussen Reports conducted the first poll of likely Republican primary voters after the New Hampshire GOP debate laR week. The survey appeared to show a breakout for Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, as she vaulted into second place in the GOP race with 19% support from Republican voters, trailing only Mitt Romney at 33%.
The survey, conducted among 1,000 likely GOP primary voters across the country, was taken one day after the debate at Saint Anselm College, one in which Bachmann was identified by many political analysts as having had a very good night.
The polling numbers for Bachmann suggested to some that she had become the principal alternative for the Tea Party wing of the GOP to former Governor Romney. The Rasmussen survey indicated that Romney and Bachmann were each the choice of 26% of those in the survey who self-identified as Tea Party members. Romney led Bachmann by just over a 2 to 1 margin, 36% to 16%, among all others in the survey. Bachmann was also judged to be the most conservative of those whose names were offered to respondents.
One name, however, was not offered as a choice to those taking part in the Rasmussen survey — that of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Palin has not entered the race for the nomination, and it is pure speculation at this point whether she will in the future. In the other eight GOP candidate polls listed by RealClearPolitcs, Palin was one of the candidates offered as a choice to survey respondents. In the Rasmussen survey, the only national poll conducted since the New Hampshire debate, Palin was left off, though Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor who has not formally entered the race but is considered certain to do so, was included.
The other eight most recent GOP surveys listed by RealClearPolitics included both Bachmann and Palin. In those eight surveys, Palin averaged 18% support, second to Romney at 23.4%, while Bachman averaged 4.8% All of those polls were concluded before the New Hampshire debate with the exception of one by NBC and the Wall Street Journal that surveyed over five days, the final one the night of the debate.
It is pretty clear that the absence of Palin from the Rasmussen survey aided Bachman. It is not clear, however, how high Bachmann will poll if Palin were to be included in future surveys while her candidate status remained unclear, or were she to enter the race. Prior to the New Hampshire debate, during which Bachmann formally announced her entrance into the race (it had been widely assumed for weeks that she was running), Bachmann was tied with Tim Pawlenty, a fellow Minnesotan, and trailed Romney, Palin, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul. In the three surveys where former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was one of the choices, he too led Bachmann, finishing second or third in each survey.
It will take a few more surveys, both with and without Palin, to better gauge Bachmann’s trajectory. In any case, she starts the race with some good notices and an opportunity to do well in the early contests. The Rasmussen poll makes her the most visible alternative to Romney for now.
One of the fascinating things about the debate Monday and the pundit class reaction to Bachmann was how much more favorable it was than the treatment that Palin has received from many of the same people the last two and a half years. Since the two women share a few things — good looks, mothers to five children, and solid conservative credentials, especially on social and economic policy — the contrast in the coverage of the two is striking.