Talking Points Memo: Republican Voters Like Scott Walker More Than Top GOP Pres. Candidates

March 17, 2011- Scott Walker's approval rating may be in the dumps with his constituents, but by taking on public employee unions, he's made himself quite popular with Republicans nationwide.

In fact, a new PPP poll of registered voters finds that Republicans actually like Walker better than the big-name GOPers who are considering presidential bids. That shows that Walker, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, has become a Republican favorite for his tough budget talk and his willingness to butt heads with unions. But it also underscores how tepid Republicans are toward their current slate of presidential aspirants, and how a fresh conservative face could shake up the GOP primary next year.

In the poll, 55% of Republican voters said they have a favorable opinion of Walker, compared to 11% who had an unfavorable opinion of the first-term Governor, giving him a +44 point split overall. But in results from the same poll released Wednesday, the four most prominent prospective GOP candidates — Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Newt Gingrich — posted slimmer favorable margins.

Huckabee's favorable rating with Republicans was a +42, while Palin's was a +40. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich notched much slimmer margins, at +21 and +19 respectively.

Earlier this month, a survey from Republican-leaning pollster Rasmussen showed almost six in ten likely voters in Wisconsin disapproved of Walker's job performance. Yet that split down party lines, with Republicans largely backing Walker, and Democrats and independents lining up against him.

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