Discuss as:

Mitt's Tea Party problem? Not so fast.

So, does Mitt Romney have a Tea Party problem?

It’s easy to imagine that conservative small-government activists would be sour on the former governor, whose leadership in liberal Massachusetts yielded legislation characterized by compromise and front-page photos shared with a grinning Ted Kennedy. Romney’s support of the Obamacare-resembling Massachusetts health care law, his onetime embrace of abortion rights, and his coiffed New England image have earned him slaps from foes -- recently from the likes of former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the anti-tax group Club for Growth.

But a peek into the most recent NBC/WSJ pollindicates that Romney’s favorability among Tea Party backers is fairly strong, and a plurality of them would support Romney for the GOP nomination.

Romney’s overall approval rating in the poll showed 27 percent of all respondents viewing him positively, 26 percent negatively, and 30 percent neutral.  

Among just Republican respondents, his net positive rating is 35 percent (46 percent positive/11 percent negative), with a strong thumbs up coming from men over 50, core GOP voters, and those who say the government is doing too many things that should be left to the private sector. No surprises there.

But among Tea Party supporters, his net positive rating is +40 percent. (53 percent positive, just 13 percent negative.)

That’s slightly BETTER than Sarah Palin’s approval among Tea Party supporters. Fifty-eight percent view her positively but her negative rating is also higher at 22 percent.

And while Romney may benefit from stronger name ID than some other declared candidates, he’s besting several of them with Tea Party types: Pawlenty (+22 percent with Tea Party supporters), Newt Gingrich (+4 percent), and Jon Huntsman (dead even).  

The one GOP figure more popular with Tea Partiers than Romney? New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (+49 percent) … who recently said that he is “100 percent certain” he’s not going to run for president.

The favorability of Tea Party-favorites Rep. Michele Bachmann and pizza magnate Herman Cain was not tested in the NBC/WSJ poll, but in horserace matchups, Romney still won a plurality of Tea Party supporters.

Among Tea Party backers who said they would vote in the GOP primary, Romney won the support of 28 percent, Palin was selected by 15 percent, Cain won 17 percent, and Bachmann clocked in at 4 percent.