fdu_public_mind_pollMADISON, NJ - Asked who should be the Republican nominee for Vice President, Florida’s Senator Marco Rubio tops the list, followed by the surging former Pennsylvania Senator, Rick Santorum, and New Jersey’s unvarnished Governor Chris Christie, according to a new national poll of registered voters by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind™.

Rubio is mentioned 66 times in the study, or a little more than 8 percent of the time, by a mixture of registered Republicans, “lean” Republicans, and independents. “The question was open-ended,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll, “so people came up with his name without any prompt.”

The same is true for Jersey Boy Chris Christie. He is mentioned 47 times, or 6%, without any prompt, placing third in mentions ahead of Sarah Palin, the GOP’s Vice Presidential candidate last time around.

“Anytime you place ahead of Sarah Palin,” said Woolley, “call yourself a winner.  Her name recognition and presence are formidable.”

Rick Santorum gets 56 mentions, 7%, to place second. He was already mentioned in the questionnaire before the Vice Presidential question was popped. “The fact that Santorum is surging in visibility and that his name had already been brought up in interviews combined to push him toward the top of the VP list,” said Woolley.

Newt Gingrich, another active presidential candidate, who was considered hot two months ago, has fallen to the back of the pack, not just for president, but for vice-president too. He had 60 mentions in the December poll tying him for second place, but just 32 mentions in the recent study, placing fifth.

Gingrich is followed by another active presidential candidate, Ron Paul in sixth place. Paul is followed by Mitt Romney, the putative but struggling front runner for the nomination, with just 16 mentions. In a similar poll in December, he was suggested 38 times.

Michele Bachmann, who dropped out of the presidential race, has also disappeared from vice-presidential sight.  She got 60 mentions in the December poll, nearly as many as Marco Rubio, but gets just 16 mentions in the recent study.

Many other names were offered from Hillary Clinton to David Duke.

“Ronald Reagan was summoned from the grave by one respondent,” said Woolley “Clearly, that person has watched too many Republican debates.”

The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 799 registered Republican and independent voters nationwide was conducted by both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 6 through Feb.12, 2012, and has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.