Alternate headline: “Obama neck and neck with Anybody But Obama,” although that’s not strictly true. He leads each of the top GOP contenders by margins that are reasonably healthy, especially in light of the fact that his approval’s headed down the toilet over ObamaCare. That’s because Romney, Huck, and Palin all bring their own baggage to the hypothetical whereas Bush and Paul are more symbolic — Paul because his agenda is probably unknown to most voters (i.e. he’s baggage-less) and Bush because, of course, he embodies the pre-Obamanomics era. In their own way, each is a much purer “Anybody But Obama” choice than the current crop of Republicans. The numbers on G-Dub:

Americans are now pretty evenly divided about whether they would rather have Barack Obama or George W. Bush in the White House. 48% prefer Obama while 46% say they would rather have the old President back.

Bush had atrocious approval ratings for his final few years in office, particularly because he lost a lot of support from Republicans and conservative leaning independents. Those folks may not have liked him but they now say they would rather have him back than Obama. 87% of GOP voters now say they would prefer Bush, a number a good deal higher than Bush’s approval rating within his party toward the tail end of his Presidency. Democrats predictably go for Obama by an 86/10 margin, and independents lean toward him as well by a 49/37 spread.

And for Paul:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of likely voters finds Obama with 42% support and Paul with 41% of the vote. Eleven percent (11%) prefer some other candidate, and six percent (6%) are undecided…

Obama earns 79% support from Democrats, but Paul gets just 66% of GOP votes. Voters not affiliated with either major party give Paul a 47% to 28% edge over the president…

Thirty-nine percent (39%) of all voters have a favorable opinion of Paul, while 30% view him unfavorably. This includes 10% with a very favorable opinion and 12% with a very unfavorable one. But nearly one-out-of-three voters (32%) are not sure what they think of Paul.

Perhaps tellingly, just 42% of Republican voters have a favorable view of him, including eight percent (8%) with a very favorable opinion.

Nate Silver sampled several polls and weighted for different factors to determine that Huckabee and Romney, not Paul, actually do best head-to-head with The One. That’s useful but no fun; the fun poll, of course, would be an HA reader survey to see where you guys stand on the thorny hypothetical of an Obama/Paul race. I used to tilt, very reluctantly, towards The One on that, since normally I’ll give precedence to foreign policy over domestic policy. But the more poisonous Obama’s economics become and the more confounding his treatment of American allies, the harder it is to justify that. So here are two polls; one gives you the option to stay home, the other doesn’t. I’m curious to see how many of you would simply boycott the election if forced to make this choice and how many would, however grudgingly, vote Paul simply to dislodge the American messiah.

A possibly clarifying exit question for Paul supporters: Would/should the United States actually sell nuclear technology to Iran? Sounds crazy, I know, but Paul himself has always insisted that he’s not an isolationist, merely a non-interventionist. Trade is therefore on the table, and since Iran has a demand for reactors and we have a supply, hey. If the objection is that we wouldn’t trade with a country that’s a threat to us, good news: According to Paul, Iran isn’t a threat. In fact, not only does he oppose any military strike against them, he even opposes sanctions. When asked point blank during the 2008 campaign what he’d do to stop their nuclear program, he answered, point blank, not much. Any reason, then, why we wouldn’t hook up our partners in peace in Tehran with some “peaceful” nuclear accoutrements?