“The emerging Republican presidential field draws tepid ratings. Just a quarter of voters (25%) have an excellent or good impression of the possible GOP candidates, and a separate survey conducted jointly with The Washington Post finds that negative descriptions of the field far outnumber positive ones. Asked for a single word to describe the GOP field, the top response is ‘unimpressed.’

“Of the party’s best-known possible candidates, only Mitt Romney has broad potential appeal. Large majorities have heard of four possible Republican candidates – Romney, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. But most who have heard of Palin and Gingrich say there is no chance they would vote for them (63% each). About as many (60%) say there is no chance they would support Paul.

“By contrast, far fewer voters (44%) who have heard of Romney have ruled out voting for him, while 51% say there is at least some chance they could support the former Massachusetts governor.”

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“Normally I wouldn’t pay much attention to early polls given the name recognition issue and the fact that most Americans aren’t yet paying close attention to the 2012 presidential race. But what should be alarming to the Pawlenty folks is that we’ve now seen a number of polls in which former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain has been ahead of Pawlenty, despite his own lack of name recognition. Particularly troubling is the most recent poll to come out of Iowa from Public Policy Polling (PDF). Granted, it’s from a Democratic firm. But that said, Iowa is supposed to be Pawlenty’s strong state and yet he was stuck in sixth place at 10 percent in the PPP poll, with or without Sarah Palin in the race.

“Iowa’s influential Ames Straw poll is just over two months away. Cain seems to be gaining some traction in Iowa, and he’s endorsed the Fair Tax — and remember, Fair Tax supporters played a big role in Mike Huckabee’s strong showing in the 2007 Ames poll. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., has a more professional organization this time around and has won a number of early straw polls, driven by his core group of dedicated supporters. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., appears ready to jump into the race. And Romney, though he may not compete as hard in Iowa this time, still has organization there from his last run, not to mention plenty of money at his disposal. There’s a real risk that Pawlenty could have a lousy finish in the Ames Straw poll, and find it difficult to gain steam in Iowa afterwards. And if he doesn’t come out of Iowa with a strong showing in the actual caucus, it’s hard to see him going far in the rest of the country.”

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‘We cannot expect our candidate to be pure,’ [Haley] Barbour told conservative activists Friday at the 2011 Faith and Freedom Conference in Washington D.C. ‘Winning is about unity.’

“‘You gotta get [it] in your head right now,’ he instructed in his characteristic drawl, ‘I’m going to fight for my person. When it’s over, I am going to support the person that’s going to beat Barack Obama.’…

“‘And I don’t care if you nominate the most conservative candidate. There are going to be some people who don’t agree with them on everything,’ he said. ‘That’s just a fact.'”

***
“So much for dropping out — Donald Trump tells TPM he believes he can win the White House as an independent candidate, keeping his name in the presidential game despite declaring last month he would not run for the GOP nomination…

“‘I think I’d do great,’ he said, telling TPM he believed he could win the White House. As for whether he’ll run, he said it depended on the GOP nominee.

“‘Let’s see what happens with the Republicans, who they put up,’ he said.”

***

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“In New York – where Palin stopped at Ellis Island – GOP Rep. Peter King mused that the Alaskan “probably has more hard-core support than any other candidate.”

‘But she needs to show that she can go beyond that, and this tour doesn’t accomplish that,’ said King, who is urging Rudy Giuliani to enter the 2012 race.

“To former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, Palin’s visit to his state seemed more or less irrelevant. Asked for his thoughts on her arrival Thursday, the Republican shrugged: ‘I don’t think she’s running.’