An implausible ‘frontrunner’

Six national polls have been released over the last two weeks evaluating the race for the Republican presidential nomination. How many of the six show Newt Gingrich in the lead? All of them.

Here are the new Quinnipiac results, released this morning:

1. Newt Gingrich: 26%
2. Mitt Romney 22%
3. Herman Cain: 14%

A CNN poll released yesterday afternoon offered similar results:

1. Newt Gingrich: 24%
2. Mitt Romney 20%
3. Herman Cain: 17%

Four other polls released since Nov. 10 — Gallup, Fox News, Public Policy Polling, and Reuters — all show very similar results.

If one or two polls showed Gingrich in the lead, it’s easier to dismiss them as flukes. When every national polls shows him out in front, it suggests a meaningful trend.

Of course, there are all kinds of caveats to keep in mind. The Iowa caucuses are six weeks away, and Gingrich has plenty of time to see his support fade. For that matter, these are national polls, which will be heavily influenced by the results in the early nominating contests.

But the point I keep coming back to is Mitt Romney’s inability to put some distance between himself and the rest of the Republican field. Most of the political world, including me, simply assumes the former Massachusetts governor will get the GOP nod, and yet Romney’s support has actually slipped over the last few weeks.

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

To be sure, the smart money says Republicans are 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?