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GOP Insiders See Romney, Not Palin, As Nominee

A plurality of Democratic operatives say Mitt Romney would be the GOP's strongest nominee in the 2012 presidential contest, while Sarah Palin, the 2008 vice presidential nominee, barely makes the top 10.

In National Journal's first polling of GOP insiders on the 2012 race, 29 percent say Romney is the strongest candidate. He's followed by South Dakota Sen. John Thune (15%), Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (13%), Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (11%), Newt Gingrich (6%), Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (5%), Jeb Bush (5%).

Mike Huckabee, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Palin round out the top 10 with 3 percent each. Also receiving votes were Dick Cheney, Michael Bloomberg, Eric Cantor, Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, Colin Powell, Marco Rubio and Rick Santorum.

Romney also holds a wide lead when GOP operatives were asked who they think will win the nomination. Pawlenty finished a distant second, followed by Thune, Barbour, Daniels and Palin.

NJ's Jim Barnes, who runs the poll, notes that "although the Insiders Poll doesn't have a terrific record of quickly sorting out who will actually win a nomination, it helps stake out the playing field -- and identify the serious players."