The Washington Times - January 24, 2011, 12:49PM

While the 2012 presidential primary season is a year a way, pollsters already are busy handicapping a Republican race that so far seems wide open. 

A new Rasmussen Reports survey of likely Republican primary voters shows that Mitt Romney leads the pack with the support of 24 percent. Sarah Palin, the party’s nominee for vice president in 2008, runs second with 19 percent, closely followed by Mike Huckabee with 17 percent.

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Al three GOP frontrunners are former governors: Romney, Massachusetts; Palin, Alaska; and Huckabee, Arkansas.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich comes in fourth in the Rasmussen poll with 11 percent support, while another former governor, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, was next with 6 percent.

Others receiving votes for the GOP primary were Texas Rep. Ron Paul at 4 percent,  and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels with 3 percent. Six percent  said they like some other candidate, while 10 percent said they are undecided given this list.

Scott Rasmussen, founder and president of Rasmussen Reports, warned against assuming the party’s nominee will come from the early frontrunners.

“Lots of candidates, like lots of baseball teams, look good on paper, but you don’t win the nomination on paper,” he said. “You win by going to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina and convincing small groups of people in living rooms to follow you.”

The survey was conducted on Jan. 18 and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.