WSJ poll: Romney 30, Palin 14, Cain 12, Perry 8

A bad poll for everyone involved, including Mitt. Granted, he’s gained nine points since the last time the Journal surveyed the race (Huckabee was still in play at the time), but only 45 percent of Republicans say they’re happy with the field as is. Four years ago at this time, that number was 73 percent. Just 24 percent say they’re confident in Romney’s ability to be president; in 2007, even John Edwards hit 31 percent. Clearly the base wants more options and the Palin/Cain/Perry constituencies aren’t natural defectors to Romney, so one of those three is bound to start consolidating the anti-Mitt faction as we get closer to the primaries. Bachmann, meanwhile, finishes with just three percent if Palin/Cain/Perry are in the race and at 11 percent if they aren’t. Disappointing, but since the polling ended on Monday, her star turn at the debate hasn’t been priced in yet. The big loser is Pawlenty at just six percent, two points behind Gingrich(!) and tied for seventh with … Rick Santorum. And if you pull Palin, Perry, and Cain out of the field, T-Paw finishes dead last. I know, I know — “it’s still early” — but read Mike Murphy’s post from yesterday. It’s not as early as you think, especially with Perry poised to jump in and become the “not Romney” in the race. Pawlenty needs to show donors that he’s worth investing in, but polling behind Ron Paul and Newt shows them the opposite.

It’s not all sunshine and candy canes for Perry either. Behold:

We like to goof on The One for blaming Bush for his problems, but the reason he does that is because it works. People remember who was president when the financial crisis struck, they remember having utterly lost confidence in that guy for various reasons during his second term, and they’re prepared to cut O a wide, wide berth on the economy because of it. That’s Perry’s misfortune, of course, because not only does he hold Bush’s old job, but superficially he sounds a bit like him when he talks and even has some biographical overlap (they were both military pilots). We’d all like to think his record of job creation in Texas will immunize him from Bush comparisons, but don’t underestimate the ability of the low-information voter to draw the wrong conclusion from a simple, endlessly repeated set of facts. More:

Those numbers will move as we get closer to the election — note how the number who say he inherited the economy plunged as the midterms approached — but after two and a half years of dreariness, they’re remarkably resilient in his favor.

But wait, it gets worse:

Turning to Republicans’ proposal to overhaul Medicare — transforming the government-run health program into a system where future seniors receive a subsidy or voucher to help them purchase private insurance — 31 percent say it’s a bad idea, which is up nine points since April.

Just 22 percent say it’s a good idea, which is virtually unchanged from last month. And 45 percent say they have no opinion.

That number’s not quite kosher insofar as the poll question describes Ryan’s plan as a voucher system even though it isn’t exactly. The sample favors Democrats by eight points too so the hard numbers here aren’t quite as bad as they look, but the trend is worrisome if nothing else. The Journal described Ryan’s plan as a voucher system last time too and opposition was nine points lower, which suggests the GOP really is losing the messaging war. Also this:

In other words, not only does O have a viable back-up campaign narrative with “blame Bush for the economy,” he may have a very viable lead narrative in Mediscaring. See what I mean about it being a bad poll? Exit question: How can Tim Pawlenty still be trailing a guy whose favorable rating dropped 18 points in two months?