Former Republican presidential candidate Huckabee speaks during the third session of the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee leads other 2016 GOP likely candidates, with ( 40) net favorable ratingsREUTERS

The days of Republican presidential campaign glory are over, a poll released by Gallup contends.

The report, which came out on 7 April, reveals that the net favourable ratings of several likely GOP candidates "pale in comparison" of those of past presidential candidates in 2008, 2000 and 1996.

Four likely 2016 candidates were chosen for the study, with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee leading the pack with (+40) net favourable ratings. He is followed closely behind by Florida senator Marco Rubio (+39), former Florida governor Jeb Bush (+36) and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker (+36).

According to Gallup, the chosen four for 2016 would rank only as third in the 2008 field and fourth during the 2000 election cycle. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani lead in the 2008 polls with (+63) net favourable rating, while former President George W Bush was the front-runner in 2000 with an astounding (+85) net favourable rating.

Gallup attributes the lower net favourable ratings of early 2016 contenders to being less well-known than early front-runners in past elections. Jeb Bush is the best known of the likely 2016 Republican candidates, with 76% of Republican and Republican-leaning independent voters familiar with him. Huckabee trails behind at 72% familiarity and Rubio comes in third with 55%.

Those numbers are still much lower than those of former GOP candidates. Giuliani and eventual 2008 presidential nominee John McCain lead in terms of familiarity that year, with 89% and 84% respectively. Numbers rise even further in 2000, with former North Carolina Senator Elizabeth Dole beating George W Bush 92% to 91%.

The poll notes that "being unknown is better than being unpopular". Walker and Rubio, who have who have lower familiarity ratings, also have low unfavourable ratings among Republican voters. That is expected to change as the two begin their campaigns in earnest and become better known.

Bush and Huckabee, however, not only have to work on becoming better known but also have to work to reduce their unfavourable ratings among Republicans.

These numbers demonstrate the difficult job the GOP will have in sorting the 2016 Republican nomination contest, unlike Democrats, who already have a clear favourite in Hillary Clinton.

Gallup adds: "But at the outset of the 2016 campaign, the GOP lacks the star power of prior campaigns in having a very well-known and highly unpopular candidate as the nomination front-runner. That may mean that the Republicans could be in for a protracted nomination battle as a number of similarly rated candidates vie for votes."

The poll was conducted between 2 and 4 March via telephone interviews with 653 random Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.