Republicans are starting to pay more attention to the candidates who hope to take on President Barack Obama next year, and so far, that’s been a good thing for Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty.
Not for Newt Gingrich.
Overall, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows, Republicans are giving the field of challengers a so-so assessment as interest in the race increases. And, with growing doubts among Americans that Obama deserves re-election, Democratic interest in the GOP field is significant, too.
Bachmann, a three-term congresswoman supported by many tea-party members, enjoyed a big boost in her favorability rating among Republicans after she turned in a smooth debate performance this month and joined the presidential race.
Former Minnesota Gov. Pawlenty also made progress with Republicans, particularly among tea-party supporters. GOP field leader Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, held steady in the eyes of Republicans — but gained no ground — with the formal launch of his campaign. Former House Speaker Gingrich, who announced his campaign five weeks ago, was heading in the wrong direction.
The Georgian’s favorability rating among Republicans plunged in one month from 61 percent to 43 percent as his campaign was plagued by massive staff defections, abysmal fundraising and reports that he and his wife had racked up huge bills at luxury jeweler Tiffany’s.