BEWARE OF 2012 POLLS…. To a certain extent, the 2012 presidential race got underway in early November 2008, but with the midterms having come and gone (a few stragglers notwithstanding), I suppose the chatter will be getting louder. Did you know there are only 418 shopping days until the Iowa caucuses?

With that in mind, 2012 polls will be ubiquitous for a long while.

His party got its clock cleaned in Tuesday’s midterm elections, but according to a new national poll President Obama remains competitive in hypothetical 2012 presidential election matchups, especially against Sarah Palin.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Thursday also indicates that at the unofficial start of the race for the Republican presidential nomination, the field of possible contenders appears wide open with no front-runner.

In the GOP primary field, CNN shows Mike Huckabee ahead of the pack with 21%, followed by Mitt Romney with 20%, Palin with 14%, and Newt Gingrich in the mix with 12%.

As for potential general-election match-ups, CNN’s poll has Obama leading Palin, 52% to 44% among registered voters, and topping Gingrich, 49% to 47%. The same poll shows Obama trailing Romney by five points, and behind Huckabee by eight points.

Also note, about one in five self-identified Democrats said someone other than Obama should be the party’s presidential nominee.

My advice: ignore all of this. It’s ridiculously early, and no one has the foggiest what the political landscape will look like in two years.

At this point in Bush’s first term, the frontrunners for the Democratic ’04 nomination were Tom Daschle and Joe Lieberman.

At this point in Clinton’s first term, a third of Democratic voters didn’t want him to run for re-election.

At this point in Reagan’s first term, a Gallup poll showed Reagan trailing then-Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) by 15 points, and behind Walter Mondale by 12 points. Immediately after the 1982 midterms, another poll showed 56% of the country did not want Reagan to seek a second term.

Something to keep in mind when you see polls relating to 2012.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.