Where things stand with the GOP field

Gallup has a new poll this morning, asking Republicans who they prefer among their GOP presidential hopefuls. It’s the first national poll taken after several prominent figures — Huckabee, Daniels, Trump, etc. — withdrew from consideration.

I found the results rather interesting:

1. Mitt Romney — 17%
2. Sarah Palin — 15%
3. Rand Paul — 10%
4. Newt Gingrich — 9%
5. Herman Cain — 8%
6. Tim Pawlenty — 6%
7. Michele Bachmann — 5%
8. Jon Huntsman — 2%
8. Gary Johnson — 2%
8. Rick Santorum — 2%

First, the obligatory caveat. National polls, at this early point in the process, are lacking in predictive value. The surveys in states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina are probably worth keeping a closer eye on, since winners and losers there will see their national numbers rise and fall accordingly.

That said, there are a couple of noteworthy things to take from these new results from Gallup. Herman Cain, for example, has a lot more support than I would have expected. Generally, these polls are largely driven by name recognition, but with Cain largely unknown as a national figure, and getting next to zero press coverage, this doesn’t explain his relatively strong showing.

The conventional wisdom is that Cain — a former pizza company executive with no experience in public office at any level — is better left ignored, no more credible that Johnson or Roemer. A couple of more polls like this one, though, and those assumptions will be need of some major revisions. Campaign reporters are closely following Pawlenty and Huntsman, but Gallup shows Cain’s support matching Pawlenty’s and Huntsman’s totals combined.

Also note Palin’s second-place showing, nearly matching Romney. Dave Weigel argues that she should be faring better, but I don’t quite see it that way — after all of this time as a national laughingstock, the former half-term governor is still one of the top GOP presidential candidates at the national level. The American mainstream may consider her a ridiculous punch-line, but she maintains a sizable base of right-wing support, and if she were to run, Palin would likely be able to compete as a top-tier challenger.

I suspect she’d have a fairly modest ceiling and couldn’t actually win the nomination, but Palin still has a following, ridiculous though it may be.