Two ways to look at Palin’s partisan popularity

TWO WAYS TO LOOK AT PALIN’S PARTISAN POPULARITY…. The Washington Post has new poll results out today measuring the popularity of the likely Republican presidential candidates, most notably a former half-term Alaska governor. The paper’s take on the results isn’t wrong, but I read the numbers a little differently.

Sarah Palin’s ratings within the Republican Party are slumping, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, a potentially troubling sign for the former Alaska governor as she weighs whether to enter the 2012 presidential race.

For the first time in Post-ABC News polling, fewer than six in 10 Republicans and GOP-leaning independents see Palin in a favorable light, down from a stratospheric 88 percent in the days after the 2008 Republican National Convention and 70 percent as recently as October.

That’s all true. In the months after Palin was added to the Republican presidential ticket in 2008, GOP voters adored her, with favorable ratings ranging from 81% to 88%. That level of support has obviously deteriorated.

But when I looked at the same numbers, I came away with a different spin. The poll asked Republican voters whether they have a favorable or unfavorable impression of eight possible GOP presidential candidates. Four of the eight — Barbour, Pawlenty, Huntsman, and Daniels — fared poorly because they’re still largely unknown on a national level.

But here’s the breakdown for the four candidates with national profiles:

1. Mike Huckabee — 61% favorable, 18% unfavorable
2. Mitt Romney — 60% favorable, 21% unfavorable
3. Sarah Palin — 58% favorable, 37% unfavorable
4. Newt Gingrich — 55% favorable, 26% unfavorable

Now, the Post‘s point is that Palin’s popularity with Republicans is in a steep decline. That certainly appears to be the case. On the other hand, even after all of her various controversies and humiliations, Palin remains surprisingly popular with GOP voters. Indeed, of the possible presidential field, she’s trailing Huckabee and Romney by just a couple of points, and among those with a “strongly” favorable opinion, Palin is second only to Huckabee.

It may be counterintuitive, but I actually think this is good news for Palin. She’s done nothing but bring shame and embarrassment to herself on a nearly daily basis for years, and she’s likely dropped about as far as she can with the GOP. And at this point, she still enjoys favorable ratings from a clear majority of Republican voters.