Scott Walker: The GOP’s Best Presidential Hope?

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What a couple of months it’s been for Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker. The massive protests targeting Walker and his controversial “budget repair bill,” the measure signed into law last week that slashed collective bargaining rights for most public-sector unions in Wisconsin, launched Walker into the national spotlight, making him the face of the GOP’s nationwide assault on unions and attempt to defund the Democratic Party. Today, a Public Policy Polling survey finds that Walker’s popularity among Republicans tops that of 2012 presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney.

PPP found that Walker’s favorability spread is plus-44, with 55 percent of those polled saying they like him and 11 percent saying they don’t. By comparison, Huckabee’s spread is plus-42, Gingrich’s plus-19, Palin’s plus-40, and Romney’s plus-21. “None of the folks most seriously considering this race have been able to get any momentum yet, leaving a lot of room for a fresher face to enter and get a lot of traction,” writes PPP’s Tom Jensen. “Walker’s crusade against the unions has put him in a position where he could be that guy.”

Among all Americans, however, Walker’s popularity plummets. Thirty-nine percent of those polled dislike him, while 34 percent take a favorable of him. Here’s more from PPP’s results:

Forty-six percent generally have a favorable opinion of labor unions to 40% who rate them negatively. And 45% say they side with the unions in the Wisconsin dispute to 41% who go with Walker. These findings all closely mirror what we found in the state itself- voters are extremely polarized but do side narrowly with the workers.

Even for the general election Walker’s favorability numbers, though under water, stack up well to the rest of the Republican field. His -5 spread is better than Huckabee’s -7 (35/42), Romney’s -12 (32/44), Palin’s -22 (35/57), and Gingrich’s -31 (26/57). The primary flaw with the top GOP hopefuls is that Americans already know them well and dislike them. That might prove to be the case ultimately with Walker as well but a candidacy from him is an intriguing possibility. We’ll throw him on some of our polls over the next few weeks for both primary and general elections and see how he does.

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