Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is a tea party favorite in a new Pew poll. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
Mitt Romney is the choice of nearly one in four of those who agree with the tenets of the tea party, according to a new Pew poll, a surprising result that suggests the former Massachusetts governor’s support heading into 2012 may be broader than previously assumed.

Among tea party supporters, Romney took 24 percent to 19 percent for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, 15 percent for former House speaker Newt Gingrich and 13 percent for Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, long considered the tea party’s 2012 candidate-in-waiting, took just 12 percent — another piece of evidence that the 2008 vice presidential nominee’s support is fading even among members of her own party.

The Pew poll comes less than two weeks after a Washington Post/ABC News survey showed Romney running strong among the party’s conservatives; more than seven in 10 Republicans who described themselves as “very” conservative had a favorable opinion of Romney.

In the Pew survey, Romney’s numbers are not only strong among tea party types but across the board. He took 20 percent among self-identified conservatives — tied with Huckabee for first — and 23 percent among moderate-to-liberal GOPers. The only group where Romney lagged even slightly was among white evangelical Protestants, where he received 15 percent to Huckabee’s 29 percemt

The Pew and Post results — coming so close to one another — seem to make clear that Romney, who has largely been cast as an establishment pick, has wider reach within the party than first imagined. It’s not entirely clear where Romney’s power among tea party activists originates, although his strong fiscal conservatism likely endears him to that bloc of voters.

Of course, Romney’s strength has come in a race that is among the least engaged in modern memory. (One in three Republicans told Pew that they are not following the presidential race closely at all; just 19 percent said they were following the contest “very” closely.)

Once the race engages, Romney, who is regarded among political insiders and strategists as the favorite for the nomination, will quickly become a target. And, even before things get started in earnest, Romney has come under heavy criticism for his signing of a health care bill in Massachusetts that has similarities to the national bill that President Obama helped pass into law a year ago.

Resistance to the Obama health care plan runs strong in the tea party movement so it’s not entirely clear how badly Romney's standing will be impacted by the Massachusetts law. But, almost no one would have predicted Romney’s strength to date among tea party types, so it’s hard to predict whether he can sustain it.

Gingrich vs. Gingrich: Former House speaker Newt Gingrich has apparently switched his position on intervention in Libya.

The likely 2012 GOP presidential candidate initially urged Obama to be more forceful in Libya and institute a no-fly zone. Now that Obama has done that, though, Gingrich says intervention wasn’t the right course.

“I would not have intervened,” Gingrich said in an interview with NBC News. “I think there were a lot of other ways to affect Gadhafi. I think there are a lot of other allies in the region that we could have worked with. I would not have used American and European forces.”

A Gingrich spokesman says the former House speaker changed his position after Obama decide to pursue a humanitarian mission rather than removing Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi.

Americans for Job Security targets Republicans: The conservative group Americans for Job Security is running radio ads against Republicans.

The ads urge Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), John Thune (R-S.D.) and David Vitter (R-La.) to support an amendment sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) that would set the fee a bank can charge to process transactions on a credit or debit card. The ads cast the rule as deadly for small banks.

“Call Sen. Vitter ... Tell him to stand up for Main Street, not Wall Street,” says one ad.

The ads also target a few Democrats, including Sens. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).

The group’s support for the amendment is interesting, given that it is not an issue that appears to cut along partisan lines. And the Wall Street Journal recently editorialized against it, saying it “threatens the flow of credit to low-income Americans and promises higher fees on bank services for nearly everyone else.”

Biden the doomsayer: More and more, the White House is trotting out Vice President Biden to scare Democrats.

This week alone, Biden has cautioned that Democrats could lose the Senate in 2012, and on Wednesday at a fundraiser with Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), he warned that Obama wouldn’t win Florida if Nelson doesn’t.

The doomsayer is a good role for Biden. Since he is known for his candor, his words carry weight with Democratic donors. And obviously, it means something when the vice president says something.

Does Biden continue to talk about the worst-case scenario for 2012?


Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) leads an unnamed GOP challenger 45 percent to 29 percent in a new Quinnipiac poll.

Donald Trump doubles down on birtherism during an appearance on ABC’s “The View.”

Rob Johnson, who managed Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) successful 2010 reelection campaign, has signed on with Gingrich.

Former Alaska GOP Senate nominee Joe Miller is joining a Nevada-based political action committee.

How many people have heard of former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty? Only about 41 percent. Gallup name ID numbers for all the potential presidential candidates.


Rand Paul: The Pat Buchanan of 2012?” — Steve Kornacki, Salon

Scott Walker Email Analysis Raises Questions About Governor’s Claims” — Scott Bauer and Todd Richmond, AP