by Lydia Saad
PRINCETON, NJ -- The lead in the Republican nomination race has thus far changed seven times since May in Gallup polling. Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich each held the top spot at various points in 2011, with Romney's standing rising and falling as other candidates surged and faded.
Mike Huckabee led the Republican field, or tied Romney and Sarah Palin for the lead, in Gallup polls at the start of the year; however Huckabee and Palin ultimately declined to run.
The volatility in Republican preferences this year most closely resembles changes in Democrats' preferences in 2003 when Joe Lieberman, John Kerry, Tom Daschle (not an announced candidate), Dick Gephardt, Howard Dean, and Wesley Clark each had their turn as front-runner, before Kerry took command of the race at the start of the primaries in 2004. The lead changed hands nine times in Gallup polling throughout 2003.