Palin limps in fourth in key Republican activists' poll

Sarah Palin may want to express-freight her sled and dogs over to New Hampshire where support for her as the Republican nominee for president turns out to be tepid verging on chilly, according to a first poll taken in the electorally critical state this weekend.

That Mitt Romney, who tried for the nomination in 2008, came top of the poll of fewer than 500 members of the state Republican committee with a convincing 35 per cent did not surprise many. He has a house in New Hampshire and was governor of neighbouring Massachusetts.

Yet Ms Palin's performance – she was fourth with only 7 per cent – will get attention. Tiny though it may be, New Hampshire has an outsized influence in the nominating process as the first state to hold primary elections.

Second place in the poll went to Ron Paul, the 75-year-old libertarian congressman who also fought for the Republican spot last time. He won 11 per cent support. A more serious threat to Ms Palin would probably be Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, who took third place with 8 per cent.

Those trailing even further behind included Mike Huckabee, once the governor of Arkansas. Among the Republicans considered in the poll, only one has formally declared an interest in running. He is Herman Cain, a former pizza tycoon from Atlanta, and he won only 3 per cent support.

No one knows if Ms Palin will throw her hat in the ring, likewise such possible contenders as Chris Christie and Mitch Daniels, popular governors of New Jersey and Indiana respectively.

Democrats, who assume that Barack Obama will be their nominee, may see reason for encouragement from the poll, unscientific and narrow as it was. Mr Romney's top place is a reminder that if the Republicans are hoping for some fresh and exciting blood next year, they haven't found it yet.

HAVE THEY GOT WHAT IT TAKES TO CHALLENGE OBAMA?

MITT ROMNEY

The super-rich former governor of Massachusetts, Romney made his money as a businessman and when standing for the Republican ticket in 2008, he declared that his net worth was as much as $250m. Despite being unsuccessful on that occasion, he is tipped to be having another run in 2012.

RON PAUL

A congressman for Texas, he's a blunt critic of the country's foreign policy. He ran for president in 1988 on a libertarian ticket and came fourth last time around for the Republican nomination. He regularly votes against government proposals on spending and taxes and is known as "Dr No" for his refusal to vote for legislation unless it is specifically authorised by the Constitution. His son, Rand Paul, a Tea Party mainstay, was elected to the Senate from Kentucky, last November.

TIM PAWLENTY

'T-Paw' is the former governor of Minnesota, who served for two terms from 2002-2010 before standing down. He was widely tipped to be McCain's running mate in 2008. A social conservative, he has said he would reinstate the 'don't ask, don't tell' rule on gays serving in the military. He said about 2012: "If I decide to run it would be for president, not vice-president."

SARAH PALIN

Former governor of Alaska, she was relatively unknown before being announced as John McCain's running mate for the 2008 election. Since then she's become the champion of the ultra-conservative Tea Party movement. Drew lots of criticism during the Tucson shootings for her inflammatory comments before and after the event.

MIKE HUCKABEE

Arkansas' former governor currently hosts the Fox News TV show Huckabee and the ABC radio show The Huckabee Report. The former preacher stood for the Republican candidacy in the 2008 elections and for a brief period looked like a possible winner. When he didn't he was tipped to be McCain's running mate - and wasn't. Mr Huckabee, who plays rock guitar for a hobby, has often come top of polls for possible 2012 Republican candidates.

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