CNN: Huckabee 24, Romney 20, Palin 15

Here’s a morale booster on a day when Huck’s in the news for tossing a culture-war firecracker, eh? How does a long hot summer filled with bickering over gay marriage sound for 2012? Mmmm mmmm good.

“Huckabee does best among women, regular church-goers, and Republicans who never attended college,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Romney gets better numbers among white collar Republicans and GOPers who attend church once a month or less. Palin does not win among any of those groups, despite the fact that she has a higher favorable rating among Republicans than Huckabee, Romney or Gingrich.”…

“It is important to remember that at this stage of the game, candidate matchups are largely driven by name recognition, and at least a quarter of all Americans are unfamiliar with Romney, Huckabee and Gingrich. As a result, Obama has an 8- to-12-point edge over each of them in hypothetical matchups,” adds Holland. “But in a previous CNN poll, Obama managed no better than a tie against an unnamed Republican.”

But there is something more than name recognition at work in Obama’s big lead over Palin.

“Palin is almost as well known as Obama, but the general public appears to have some doubts about what they have seen of her so far,” says Holland.

In other words, Huck and Mitt could theoretically close the gap with The One as Americans get to know them. Sarahcuda? Well, they already know her — only two percent haven’t heard of her at this point — but her numbers are suddenly in decline again after rebounding last year. After she resigned last July, her favorables were at 39/48; they creeped upwards to 46/46 during her book tour and stood at 43/46 in January. Now? 39/55, which is by far the worst she’s ever done in CNN. I’m not sure why, although the media narrative about tea partiers may be hurting her: Their numbers are down too, from 33/26 in January to 38/36 now. Maybe she’s catching some negative spillover from Fox News after joining them as a contributor full-time? Or maybe the alarmism about her “reload” comment has penetrated deeper than anyone thought. Note the trends:

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The fact that she’s underwater even on the “shares your values” question is striking. Is it the “reloaded” thing or am I forgetting something else that’s happened between then and now? It’s borderline amazing that her favorables among Republicans are better than Mitt’s and Huck’s and yet she’s still third in the field, although the fact that the numbers on whether she’s qualified to be president are still dismal — 30/69 this month — probably explains it.

Serious question: Is there any way she can significantly improve her public image at this point? I’m open to persuasion since I’m the guy who always says vis-a-vis Romney that a lot can happen between now and next year, but my point all along with him has been that righties may be willing to forgive RomneyCare in the long run in the name of electability. So desperate will they be by 2012 to oust The One that a credible claim of being able to beat him in the general will be a compelling message all its own. Palin has the opposite problem: The base loves her, but the more time goes by and her numbers don’t move, the more the electability argument works against her. What’s her next move?