That’s from an “interactive poll” of more than 2,000 likely voters, which also showed Christie with a 10-point lead within the Republican primary field. (Romney was second.) The obvious caveats here? One: Er, Christie’s definitely not running. Two: As professional number-cruncher Mark Blumenthal reminds us tonight, all horse-race polls prior to the Iowa caucuses are pretty much craptastic. Three: The One’s approval rating is suddenly showing signs of life, which may be a temporary artifact of his wins during the lame duck or may be an early alert that left-leaning independents are rallying behind him as he prepares to battle the new GOP House. Four: C’mon, we all know who the real frontrunner is. Ahem. Five: Didn’t Zogby forget to include someone here? No, I don’t mean Pence. What about … Santorum-mania?
Palin, whose endorsements of candidates in states such as South Carolina and Alaska shaped the 2010 GOP primaries, is well-liked among Republicans, polls show, but some question whether she’s qualified to be president. Santorum came close to putting himself in that camp.
“I like her a lot, but I’m not too sure that … ,” said Santorum in the interview. He paused before restating his response.
“Let’s put it this way: I’m not waiting for her to decide whether I’m running for president,” he continued. “So, to me, she’s certainly been a net plus to Republican efforts. She was a huge factor in the last election, to me mostly to the good, maybe not all to the good. But 90 percent is pretty good.”
Asked directly if Palin is qualified to be president, Santorum responded: “What does it mean to be qualified to be president? She is born in this country and she’s the right age. Those are the qualifications.”
He was actually much tougher on Romney in that same interview, calling him a “good man” but coming awfully close to saying that RomneyCare is a dealbreaker. Exit question: If Palin runs, is Santorum going to be the guy who tries to jumpstart his campaign by attacking her? The idea of the media warming to Rick Santorum, of all people, seems preposterous, but they may end up so hungry for anti-Palin storylines in the primaries — especially if, as expected, centrists like Romney go easy on her to avoid antagonizing her base — that Santorum might seize the opportunity to become the guy who makes the “she’s unelectable” argument part of his platform. Gary Johnson will probably do that to some extent too, since he’s also a niche candidate looking for media traction, but Johnson has the luxury of an open field on the libertarian end of the spectrum. Santorum will be crowded out with so many other social cons in the race unless he figures out a way to make a splash. And let’s face it, the media finds conservative critiques of Palin pretty darned splashy.