California Republicans favor presidential candidate Mitt Romney by a comfortable margin over other Republicans, a Field Poll released today shows.
When stacked up against 11 other announced or potential Republican candidates, Romney is the first choice of an eye-catching 25 percent of GOP voters in the state. If former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is excluded, Romney's share jumps to 30 percent.
"He's got a commanding lead in the early going," pollster Mark DiCamillo said. "Romney has the formula of both being well-known and being positively perceived."
Though the former Massachusetts governor announced his formal candidacy only June 2, Romney has long been beating the bushes for support. He spent $107 million seeking the 2008 Republican nomination, including $8.4 million that he raised from California donors.
The Los Angeles region was the third-leading source of campaign donations for Romney's 2008 campaign, behind the Boston and Salt Lake City areas, figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics show.
"He's just a well-known figure," DiCamillo noted. "He has tremendous name (identification), and that converts to preferences."
Romney is viewed favorably by 56 percent of California Republicans and unfavorably by only 25 percent.
Giuliani is the only potential Republican contender whose overall favorability rating among all California voters exceeds Romney's. But Giuliani, who left his New York City job a decade ago and whose 9/11-themed presidential bid fell short three years ago, has not declared himself a candidate this time around.
Other Republicans are far more divisive, even among GOP voters.
Former Alaska governor and one-time vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is viewed favorably by 48 percent of California Republicans but unfavorably by 41 percent. Palin has toyed with the news media and commanded attention with a national bus tour, but has not declared her candidacy.
Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, fares even worse. He is viewed favorably by 36 percent of California Republicans and unfavorably by 44 percent. Unlike Palin, he has announced his candidacy, but his campaign team imploded last week with the abrupt resignation of at least 16 senior staff members.
Still other declared or potential GOP candidates are struggling just to become known in California.
Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, now in her third term in the House of Representatives, declared her candidacy a week ago. So far, 42 percent of California Republicans haven't formed an impression of her.
Any Republican will face a big challenge in California, which went for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and which still favors the president, albeit with some hesitation. Among all California registered voters, 49 percent of those surveyed say they are inclined to vote for Obama, while 40 percent say they are not.
This latter number is telling.
"It shows some vulnerabilities," DiCamillo said. "There are tough economic times, and that's being reflected here."