I already wrote the “surprisingly strong showing by Trump!” post yesterday vis-a-vis New Hampshire so I’m not sure what’s left to say about this. It’s a national poll this time but the key elements are all the same. He does especially well among tea partiers, which may be due to his Birtherism, his name recognition, and/or his “Beltway outsider” status. And he leads everyone except Romney, which is as strong a signal as the base can send that they’re not real thrilled with their choices thus far.

According to the latest national NBC/WSJ poll, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leads the hypothetical 2012 GOP pack with support from 21 percent of Republican primary voters — followed by Trump and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at 17 percent each, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 11 percent and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at 10 percent…

Strikingly, Trump — who has received a considerable amount of attention for incorrectly stating that President Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. — finishes first among Tea Party supporters (at 20 percent), followed by Romney (17 percent), Huckabee (14 percent), Palin (12 percent) and Gingrich (9 percent).

When the field is whittled down to five Republicans — Bachmann, Barbour, Gingrich, Pawlenty and Romney — Romney leads with 40 percent, Gingrich comes in second with 20 percent and Pawlenty is third with 12 percent.

I assume that a big chunk of Trump’s support is coming from the “Not Mitt” (or “Not Anyone”) contingent, which, if true, is probably good news for Pawlenty when voters finally get to know him. He’s the cipher in the race; once Trump decides he’s not running or the base decides that they’re not going to nominate, um, Donald Trump, the “pox on all their houses” vote should logically gravitate to T-Paw.

More from the crosstabs, with bad omens for Mitt, Newt, and even Trump:

The poll also measured candidate attributes. The most popular among all respondents: being a woman (a combined 85 percent said they were either enthusiastic or comfortable with that attribute), being an African American (84 percent), being a governor (81 percent), being a Catholic (77 percent), being a Hispanic (75 percent) and being a business executive (68 percent).

The least popular: being a former lobbyist (16 percent), being a FOX News commentator (31 percent), being a Tea Party leader (35 percent), being a person with multiple marriages (46 percent) and being a Mormon (49 percent).

Pawlenty the cipher skates free while everyone else in the field slips and falls somewhere in there. But never mind the presidential numbers. Here are the truly important figures from the poll:

[T]he broader Republican electorate, including GOP-leaning independents, are evenly split, 48% to 47%, between those advising compromises against those urging political leaders to stick to their positions, even if it results in no budget agreement…

For Democrats, the calculation is more straightforward. By a 71%-to-23% split, Democrats want their leaders to reach a deal. Even the liberal and minority voices that make up the core of the party want their leaders to make the compromises necessary to win a budget agreement…

The poll also gave what Mr. McInturff called a “flashing yellow light” to Republicans as they push for big budget cuts in the current year and beyond. This week, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), flanked by dozens of Republicans, unveiled a balanced budget plan that would end Medicare’s traditional fee-for-service insurance for seniors in favor of a menu of private insurance plans whose premiums would be partially paid by the government.

But 53% of Americans say Medicare is either pretty much OK the way it is or is in need of only minor modifications. Among senior citizens, 66% counseled minor changes, at most.

Translation: Boehner has the upper hand against Obama on negotiations over the 2011 budget since The One’s base is much more eager for a deal than the GOP’s is. But when it comes to Ryan’s much more consequential 2012 budget, the fear of entitlement reform remains deep. It’s going to take a lot of “messaging” to soften that up, with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz screaming about budgetary “killer tornadoes” the whole way.

Exit quotation: “I will be better than anybody. I will do the best job. If I decide to run, I will do the best job. I will be best for this country.”