GOP frontrunner still can’t consolidate support

The new national Gallup poll shows where the race for the Republican presidential nomination currently stands.

1. Mitt Romney: 21% (up one point from October)
1. Herman Cain: 21% (up three points)
3. Newt Gingrich: 12% (up five points)
4. Rick Perry: 11% (down four points)
5. Ron Paul: 8% (no change)
6. Michele Bachmann: 3% (down two points)
7. Rick Santorum: 2% (down one point)
8. Jon Huntsman: 1% (down one point)

The development that will get the headlines, obviously, is the fact that Cain has caught up to Romney at the national level, and Gingrich’s recent bump that’s pushed Perry to fourth place.

But what I still find remarkable is Romney’s inability to put some distance between himself and the rest of the Republican field. The Iowa caucuses are, after all, eight weeks from tomorrow, and the presumptive nominee, the man Democrats simply assume will get the GOP nod, finds himself tied with a strange, inexperienced man, who doesn’t understand government or current events, and who’s facing credible allegations of sexual harassment.

Remember, in nearly every instance since 1959, by this point in the race, the Republican frontrunner enjoyed support of at least 41% before going on to win the party’s nomination. Romney hasn’t even been able to reach 30% in any Gallup poll this year — and his support is actually lower now than it was over summer.

He’s running against misfits, clowns, and con men, and Romney’s still stuck at 21%.

As Jon Chait recently noted, “I don’t see how Republicans could be making this any more plain. They do not want to nominate Mitt Romney.”

To be sure, the smart money says they’re likely to nominate him anyway, because there’s no one else worthy of the nod. But when was the last time the Republican Party went into a general election with a nominee so much of the party simply didn’t like?

As for the next tier, I don’t expect Gingrich’s little uptick to last, in large part because he simply lacks the resources, campaign structure, and work ethic to advance. Perry, meanwhile, actually has some money in the bank, and still has a chance to see his support grow.