CNN poll of Republicans: Palin 29, Huckabee 26, Romney 21

The margin of error’s 4.5 percent so in effect the result’s no different from their poll of Republicans and independents in December, which Huck won by two points. But here’s a twist: While Huckabee did better with Republican women three months ago, the tide has suddenly turned.

While the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll doesn’t indicate a clear frontrunner, it does suggest there’s a gender gap among rank and file Republicans.

“Among GOP men, the same pattern emerges — no clear advantage for Palin, Huckabee or Romney. But among Republican women, it’s a different story. Palin has a 10-point edge among Republican women, winning 32 percent support among them to 22 percent for Huckabee and 20 percent for Romney,” adds Holland. “With the sampling error, that’s not enough to say for sure that Palin is in the lead, but it does indicate that if the primaries were held tomorrow, Palin would have a good chance of being the favorite among GOP women.”

Any theories as to why? Bristol’s been in the news lately, so maybe there’s some sort of identification with Palin as mother stemming from that? I’m stumped. Exit question: Think with me here for a minute. If The One gets the economy on track by 2011 and it looks like he’s waltzing towards reelection, wouldn’t Huckabee actually be a good pick for the nomination? Granted, he’s white, southern, and evangelical, none of which screams “big tent,” but he’s also charming, media savvy, good on race, and comfortable with middle-class economic messaging in a way that Romney, say, isn’t. In other words, he might help boost the party’s image, which isn’t a bad consolation prize in a year you’re destined to lose. Plus, getting crushed in 2012 means he’s an also-ran in 2016, when the GOP would have a real chance again. Second look at Huck as sacrificial lamb?