None of the top three Republican presidential candidates has created much enthusiasm among GOP voters, according to new poll numbers released by Gallup on Thursday.

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks to supporters during a campaign stop at Kirkwood Park March 13, 2012 in Kirkwood, Missouri. (Photo by Whitney Curtis/Getty Images)

The numbers were similar for Rick Santorum. Thirty-four percent said they would “enthusiastically” back the former Pennsylvania senator in the fall, while 40 percent said their vote would be more against the incumbent.

The data are even more dismal for former House speaker Newt Gingrich, as just 28 percent said they would back him enthusiastically. .

Those numbers don’t compare well to 2008, which should worry Republicans. In early February 2008, almost half of Republicans (47 percent) said they would vote enthusiastically for Arizona Sen. John McCain. At that time 35 percent said the same of Romney — numbers largely unchanged from where he stands today.

(More than half of Democrats in a May 2008 Gallup survey said they would support then-Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton enthusiastically in the fall election.)

“These data reinforce the relatively tepid level of ‘positive intensity’ generated by Romney, Santorum and Gingrich among Republicans this year,” wrote Gallup’s Frank Newport in a memo detailing the results.

The diminished enthusiasm from the Republican electorate is also reflected in other data points.

In a Pew poll released earlier this week, 49 percent of Republicans described their presidential field as either “excellent” (6 percent) or “good” (43 percent) while 48 percent said it was “fair” (39 percent) or “poor” (9 percent). In February 2008, 60 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters called their field either “excellent” or “good”.

And, as the Post’s Dan Eggen reported earlier this week, fundraising on the Republican side is about half as high as it was in the 2008 GOP contest. While donations are not directly correlated to enthusiasm within the party, when taken with the poll numbers detailed above, it adds up to a less-than-excited Republican Party when it comes to their candidate options.

Before Democrats celebrate too much, however, it’s important to remember two things. First, Republicans appear to still be more enthusiastic than Democrats about voting in the 2012 election. Second, it remains to be seen whether Republican enthusiasm will pick up once Romney or Santorum clearly emerge as the party’s nominee.

Still, the lack of excitement within the GOP has to be of concern for Republicans, who desperately want to win back the White House in November.

Oregon debate canceled: As expected, the last scheduled debate in the GOP presidential race has been canceled.

Romney said a few days ago that he wouldn’t attend the debate next week, and state party chairman Allen Alley has officially pulled the plug on Thursday.

Paul’s and Santorum’s campaigns have also indicated that they are through with debates, so it’s not surprising to see the Oregon debate get the ax. Gingrich’s campaign was really the only campaign pushing for more.


Romney dismisses Santorum’s criticism that Fox News is “shilling for” Romney’s campaign.

Chris Christie will go to Illinois to campaign for Romney.

Despite spending two days in Illinois, Gingrich says the state’s primary will come down to Romney and Santorum.

John Edwards’s mistress gets immunity.

There has been twice as much talk of a brokered convention as four years ago.

David Axelrod explains why Bill Maher is different from Rush Limbaugh.

Another Voter ID law passes in Pennsylvania.

Washington state may have to hold a special election in November for the final month of Rep. Jay Inslee’s (D-Wash.) term under the current boundaries, with the regular election being fought under the state’s new redistricting map. Inslee is resigning to focus on his run for governor.

The Justice Department clears the new Virginia congressional map.


Santorum becomes a leading conservative voice through campaign’s resurrection” — Nia-Malika Henderson, Washington Post

White House moves into full reelection mode” — David Nakamura, Washington Post

For Romney, a campaign shaped by Bush allies” — Samuel P. Jacobs, Reuters