CNN poll of Republicans: Huckabee 22, Palin 21, Romney 21

They poll this every three months, always with the same large-ish margin of error (4.5 points), and thus far always with similar results. Namely, Huck, Mitt, and Sarahcuda bunched together at the head of the pack.

What makes this one noteworthy is how far Palin’s declined since February, when she led with 29 percent. The Levi/Bristol tabloid nonsense is taking its toll.

The poll indicates that 13 percent of Republicans would back former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 2012, with 6 percent supporting former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Ten percent of those questioned say they would most likely back someone else…

The poll’s release also comes as Romney’s recent schedule gives the impresison of a man intent on running for the White House again. On Monday, Romney criticized the Obama administration over national security at a speech sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Friday he was the keynote speaker at a major Republican Party dinner in Virginia. He’s campaigned recently for GOP gubernatorial candidates in Virginia and New Jersey, and he’s a frequent guest on cable news programs and Sunday talk shows.

Asked Sunday about a bid in 2012, Romney told Fox News that “I’m not going to close that door” — although, he added, “I’m not going to walk through it either.”

Who benefited from Palin defectors? Er, not sure: Huck’s actually lost four points himself since the last poll while Mitt, ominously, remains stuck at 21 notwithstanding his financial acumen in an age of recession and his attempts to position himself as a party elder statement. Exit question: If Palin decides not to run, which of the remaining two will pick up the lion’s share of her supporters? The temptation is to say Huck because of her following among conservative Christians but I think that misunderstands the core of Palinmania. Her fans don’t love her because she’s a social con, they love her because they see her as a Jacksonian. And while superficially Huck is closer to that model than an urbane millionaire like Mitt, I think Huck’s reputation for being a big-government conservative, fairly or not, will haunt him going forward. My guess is that Romney will pick up the Palinistas if he runs. Which, let’s face it, he almost certainly will.

Update: Dude?