WASHINGTON—According to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted this week, a homemade anti-Obama sign has surged to the front of the 2012 Republican presidential field, emerging as the clear favorite to earn the party's nomination in next year's primaries.
The telephone survey of 773 likely voters indicated the sign, a piece of poster board bearing the handwritten phrase "NOBAMA 2012" in bold red letters, would defeat former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, its nearest rival, by a landslide 17 percentage points if the primaries were held today. The poll also found the sign had a "favorable" or "highly favorable" rating among 94 percent of registered Republicans, a figure greater than all other presumptive GOP candidates combined.
"We're seeing that voters find the sign more charismatic, more likeable, and much more engaging than other Republican candidates," said political analyst Mark Halperin, adding that the poster's message resonates strongly with conservatives. "In the end, it comes down to two things: the ability to energize the party base, and the power to instill confidence and appear presidential. Right now, it's the sign by far."
"Frankly," Halperin added, "this is the brightest star to emerge from the Republican ranks in the last several elections."
According to Halperin, the 22-by-28-inch poster emerged as a serious contender for the Republican nomination because it offers a clear, consistent vision and refuses to compromise on its fundamental principles. Beltway insiders have also noted that the slogan "Liberty, not debt" on the back of the sign has solidified its appeal with the influential Tea Party bloc.
In addition, the sign has been warmly embraced by social conservatives, who are reportedly drawn to its clean image and lack of personal or political baggage. A recent Zogby poll showed that Americans who identified themselves as values voters favored the sign by a staggering 40-to-1 ratio over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
"I like what that sign has to say," said 46-year-old Brandon LaFollette of Florence, SC, adding that while he likes the way the poster addresses all his political and economic concerns, it's also the only Republican candidate he could see himself sitting down and having a beer with. "I agree with its positions on the deficit, health care, unemployment, gas prices—everything. And it's not afraid to stand up to the president on every issue."
"Sign 2012!" he added.
Having proved its ability to rally broad segments of the political right, and having suddenly invigorated a campaign season that had been widely considered lackluster and uninspiring, the sign has prompted political pundits to anoint the glossy white placard as "the new face of the GOP" and "a modern-day Ronald Reagan."
"Unfortunately for its competitors, the sign has very few vulnerabilities," said GOP strategist Mike Murphy, who claimed the poster was poised to "coast" to the Republican nomination next August. "It communicates to voters in unambiguous, straightforward terms, it's photogenic, and it possesses a remarkable ability to stay on message."
"The fact that it set a single-day fundraising record doesn't surprise me at all," added Murphy, referring to the $40 million haul it received last Tuesday from an estimated 350,000 citizens, the National Right to Life Committee, the Altria Group, dozens of evangelical radio personalities, the National Rifle Association, the energy lobby, and Charles G. and David H. Koch.
With both moderate and hard-line conservatives lining up behind the handmade poster, Murphy said the sign should focus on the difficult task of winning over crucial independent voters. He argued that if a seasoned anti-tax bumper sticker or an American flag lapel pin were selected as its running mate, the sign could broaden its standing in swing states and pose a formidable challenge to the incumbent Obama.
As the buzz surrounding the sign continues to mount, other Republican candidates have reportedly scrambled to reframe their campaigns and capture a share of the rising voter enthusiasm.
"While the sign and I share a common vision for the future, I would hope that voters turn to a candidate with experience," former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said. "I may not have the same gift of rhetorical flourish, and I may not be as magnetic or compelling as the poster, but this shouldn't be a popularity contest. If it were, none of us would stand a chance against the sign. We know that."
At press time, Pawlenty had dropped out of the race and was expected to make an announcement Thursday fully endorsing the sign.