Our Israel Factor panel has a solid record of preference to middle-of-the-road candidates. It was hard for this panel to get comfortable with Barack Obama’s candidacy back in 2008 – he was an unknown and the panel was more at ease with Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. When it comes to the Republican Party candidate, things were not much different: Rudy Giuliani, very familiar to Israelis, and John McCain, also a familiar veteran, were the candidates this panel preferred – with the unknown and inexperienced novices such as Huckabee and Romney, the panel was not as comfortable. Their marks and their popularity with our panel were lower through the 2008 cycle.

But now it’s 2011, and Romney the novice is the more familiar face of this Republican election cycle. When the panel was assessing him against McCain, Romney had a problem. But when he is running against Pawlenty, Huntsman, Bachmann – Romney is suddenly the candidate the panel knows best and trusts. And he is the candidate that is getting the highest marks from the panel – Giuliani still gets somewhat higher marks, but chances that His honor will be running decline by the day.

So Romney is the leading Republican candidate – he is the candidate Republican voters want - and is also the first choice of The Israel Factor panel. On the “good for Israel” question he got a 7.4 (Giuliani got 7.67). But more importantly, he keeps climbing in our survey: from 6 back in December of 2010, to 7, to 7.12 and now 7.4. Most other major Republican candidates were doing better two months ago than they do in this June survey – another reason to believe that the panel is getting closer to picking its candidate for the Republican ticket.

Here’s how the panel ranks the Republican field (more names and numbers in the Complete Statistics page):

Giuliani (not a candidate): 7.67
Romney (first among real candidates): 7.4
Gingrich (declining): 6.83
DeMint (not yet a candidate): 6.5
Perry (will he or won’t he?): 5.8
Santorum (will he drop out before or right after Iowa?): 5.6
Huntsman, Bachmann: 5.5
Bolton, Christie, Pawlenty: 5.4
Johnson: 5.33
Ryan: 4.75
Palin: 3.67
Paul (what can you expect?): 3.17

Three things worth noting:

1. Obama receives a 5.5 in this survey. This means that 6 Republican candidates have better scores than he does on “good for Israel.” This doesn’t mean though that the panel prefers the Republican nominee – it means that those wanting Republicans have stronger feelings regarding the candidates’ approach to Israel.

2. While Obama is the most polarizing candidate – the panelists scored him from 1 to 8 – Romney is the boring one. 7 or 8 are the scores he got from almost all panelists.

3. In fact, there’s one candidate even more polarizing than Obama: If you wonder why John Bolton ranks fairly low – that’s the reason. Some panelists really like him, but others find him totally unfit for the job. Bottom line: In most cases, controversy doesn’t’ work with The Israel Factor.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger