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Pit maverick Republican Congressman Ron Paul against President Obama in a hypothetical 2012 election match-up, and the race is – virtually dead even. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of likely voters finds Obama with 42% support and Paul with 41% of the vote. Eleven percent (11%) prefer some other candidate, and six percent (6%) are undecided. Ask the Political Class, though, and it’s a blowout. While 58% of Mainstream voters favor Paul, 95% of the Political Class vote for Obama. But Republican voters also have decidedly mixed feelings about Paul, who has been an outspoken critic of the party establishment. Obama earns 79% support from Democrats, but Paul gets just 66% of GOP votes. Voters not affiliated with either major party give Paul a 47% to 28% edge over the president. Paul, a anti-big government libertarian who engenders unusually strong feelings among his supporters, was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. But he continues to have a solid following, especially in the growing Tea Party movement. Twenty-four percent (24%) of voters now consider themselves a part of the Tea Party movement, an eight-point increase from a month ago. Another 10% say they are not a part of the movement but have close friends or family members who are. (Want a free daily e-mail update? If it’s in the news, it’s in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook. Thirty-nine percent (39%) of all voters have a favorable opinion of Paul, while 30% view him unfavorably. This includes 10% with a very favorable opinion and 12% with a very unfavorable one. But nearly one-out-of-three voters (32%) are not sure what they think of Paul. Perhaps tellingly, just 42% of Republican voters have a favorable view of him, including eight percent (8%) with a very favorable opinion. By comparison, 42% of unaffiliated voters regard him favorably, with 15% very favorable toward him. Twenty-six percent (26%) of GOP voters think Paul shares the values of most Republican voters throughout the nation, but 25% disagree. Forty-nine percent (49%) are not sure. Similarly, 27% of Republicans see Paul as a divisive force in the party, while 30% view him as a new direction for the GOP. Forty-two percent (42%) aren’t sure. Among all voters, 19% say Paul shares the values of most Republican voters, and 27% disagree. Fifty-four percent (54%) are undecided. Twenty-one percent (21%) of voters nationwide regard Paul as a divisive force in the GOP. Thirty-four percent (34%) say he is representative of a new direction for the party. Forty-five percent (45%) are not sure. But it’s important to note than 75% of Republicans voters believe Republicans in Congress have lost touch with GOP voters throughout the nation over the past several years. Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska and the GOP’s vice presidential nominee in 2008, is another Republican who has been bucking the party’s traditional leadership and was the keynote speaker at the recent Tea Party convention in Nashville. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Republican voters say Palin shares the values of most GOP voters throughout the nation. Just 18% of Republicans see Palin as a divisive force within the GOP. Rasmussen Reports released survey findings yesterday that take a closer look at the political views of those who say they’re part of the Tea Party movement. Among other things, 96% of those in the movement think America is overtaxed, and 94% trust the judgment of the American people more than that of America’s political leaders. When it comes to major issues confronting the nation, 48% of voters now say the average Tea Party member is closer to their views than Obama is. Forty-four percent (44%) hold the opposite view and believe the president’s views are closer to their own. Fifty-two percent (52%) believe the average member of the Tea Party movement has a better understanding of the issues facing America today than the average member of Congress. Thirty-five percent (35%) of voters now think Republicans and Democrats are so much alike that an entirely new political party is needed to represent the American people. Nearly half (47%) of voters disagree and say a new party is not needed If the Tea Party was organized as a political party, 34% of voters would prefer a Democrat in a three-way congressional race. In that hypothetical match-up, the Republican gets 27% of the vote with the Tea Party hopeful in third at 21%. However, if only the Democrat or Republican had a real chance to win, most of the Tea Party supporters would vote for the Republican. Please sign up for the Rasmussen Reports daily e-mail update (it’s free) or follow us on Twitter or Facebook. Let us keep you up to date with the latest public opinion news.