The post-White Knight survey is in from Gallup this morning, and at the moment, with (see chart) or without Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney's name recognition is carrying him to the top of the list, where he can work to hold off Herman Cain.
In the short term, Romney and Palin seem to have benefited most from several prominent potential Republican candidates' decisions not to run for president. Should Palin follow suit and not enter the race, Romney would be the clear front-runner, but arguably the weakest front-runner in any recent Republican nomination campaign.Without Mitch Daniels, a slumping Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Ronald Reagan, Oprah or Justin Bieber in the race, Republican primary voters can't decide who to dislike more. That makes the race not only wide open, but rife for Palin-mania and stories dropped in the news by her loyalists about an upcoming movie (see hilarious titles suggested by Balloon Juice, if you missed it) that will Change Everything — and make her some more money that she can rip off from her adoring fans (which is the point, isn't it?)
As such, the race remains wide open, which is underscored by the fact that one in five Republicans currently have no preference.
I'd love to think Palin is actually running, but we couldn't be that lucky.
In the meantime, just catch that Pawlenty wave. He's tearing up the field in a fan feeding frenz — okay, okay. He's not. And the main thing Palin offers this week is the contrast between how the GOP base feels about her and how they feel about Pawlenty (who runs behind Herman Cain, making Pawlenty something of an afterthought.)
In fact, Gallup quantifies it with what they are calling a "positive intensity score", a fancy way of highlighting how unpopular the weak field is among the party activists. The leaders there are Cain (by a lot), Bachmann, and Palin. Everyone else needs to look for another date for the prom.
Cue Sarah to make some noise about that. Oh, and by the way, someone needs to ask her about where she stands on the Ryan budget (after first explaining to her what it is.)