There is something funny happening in the polls. A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll revealed business mogul Donald Trump is tied with Mike Huckabee as the top GOP presidential candidate among Republicans.
Just last month, Trump, a political unknown, was nowhere close to the top spot. Huckabee, a consistent leader in the polls, only leads the pack by single-digit percentage points.
Frank Newport, the editor in chief of Gallup, says “this is a very unusual year” for GOP candidates because, unlike previous presidential races, there is no clear leader.
Newport revealed that almost every year leading up to the presidential election, there has been a clear leader. In 2008, Rudy Giuliani was a clear favorite among Republicans. In 1999, George W. Bush was the chief GOP contender. In 1996, Robert “Bob” Dole dominated the right’s candidate list. Each of those candidates had a double-digit lead, which in Bush’s case, carried him into the presidency, according to a Gallup poll analysis.
Interestingly, candidates such as Mitt Romney who were previously expected to be clear favorites in 2012 race have not met expectations, Newport noted. In Gallup’s positive intensity poll, only 17 percent of Republicans said they had a favorable view of him. By comparison, Huckabee who led the poll had a 27 percent favorable rating.
Newport said of Romney, “He’s very well known. He’s been a front runner, but he’s just not generating the energy.”
The difference between previous years and this year, Newport opined, is “that none of the candidates have established themselves.”
Still, the polls show that GOP voters also have not established which candidate they favor.
This past weekend, attendees of the Awakening 2011 conference for American values voters selected Rep. Michele Bachmann as its straw poll winner. Bachmann won 23 percent of the vote, while Huckabee garnered 22.8 percent and Newt Gingrich placed third with 21 percent of the vote.
That same weekend, Pacific Homeschool Super Conference attendees selected former Senator Rick Santorum as their winner in a straw poll with 28 percent. Tim Pawlenty was the runner up with 20 percent of the vote, followed by Herman Cain with 16 percent.
Bishop Harry Jackson, a Maryland pastor and a board member at the National Association of Evangelicals, said he believes conservative voters are very concerned with picking a leader that they can follow. “Folks don’t want to be duped one more time,” said Jackson.
President Obama’s approval rating currently rests at 44 percent, according an April Gallup poll. His disapproval rating is at 48 percent.
Michael Franc, vice president of conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, says the ground is already set for a GOP challenger.
“The country has moved to the right,” asserted Franc. Last year, a Gallup poll showed that 42 percent of respondents describe themselves as either very conservative or conservative. Another 20 percent reported they were either very liberal or liberal.
The new conservative majority, according to Franc, is primarily concerned with reigning in government spending and instituting fiscal responsibility.
He expects evangelicals will put down their Christian hats and vote with fiscal conservatives in the 2012 race. This election year, Franc said, “It’s all hands on deck, especially Christian hands.”
He explained that Christians are intensely focused on the budget talks currently taking place in the White House and on Capitol Hill. “There are a lot of moral aspects to what is going on in Washington,“ stated Franc.
House Speaker John Boehner touched on the immorality Christians believe is threatening the nation’s economy at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention earlier this year. He reminded the audience of the biblical Proverb that teaches a good man leaves an inheritance for his children. “It is immoral to bind our children to as leeching and destructive a force as debt," he said.
According to Jackson, the NAE – which represents some 30 million evangelicals – has also acknowledged the national debt as a moral issue and believes that evangelical voters will be searching for a candidate that can grow the economy.
Both Romney and Huckabee touted their experience as a businessman in their recent exploratory committee announcement videos. However, Newport said the momentum is behind Huckabee as well as Bachmann.