They’re asking whether various candidates should run, not who the nominee should be, but it’s a fair proxy for enthusiasm. 67 percent say yes to the ‘Cuda, 62 to Romney, 61 to Huck. No one else cracks 50. Among conservative Republicans, it’s Palin 73, Huck 65, Mitt 64; among moderates and liberals, Mitt 59, Palin 48, Huck 46. Based on those numbers, it’s actually Romney who’s best positioned to unite the party.
The more I think about it, the more skeptical I am that all three will run. Even I’m not pessimistic enough to believe the recession will last until 2012, which means The One will inevitably be credited with having succeeded in his chief task by the time his term ends. Huckabee will run anyway because he’s hot to remake the party in his image, but Romney doesn’t strike me as eager for another expensive primary war just to be a sacrificial lamb in the general. My hunch is he’ll run only if Obama looks vulnerable and, even then, only if there are enough social cons running to split the base among them so that his strength with moderates is magnified. (It worked for McCain this year, didn’t it?) If he doesn’t run, I assume Pawlenty will throw in and try to capture those moderates with his “Sam’s Club” rhetoric. He won’t win, but he desperately needs a higher profile if he’s going to make a serious run in the future. (It worked for Huckabee this year, didn’t it?)
But never mind that. Check out the numbers for Newt, Jindal, and poor, poor Jeb, alone among all candidates with 60+ percent urging him not to run because of the scarlet “B” he bears upon his chest. I’m surprised to see Gingrich at -1 overall and shocked to find Jindal at -2, although he’ll improve of course as his fame grows. What has he done to warrant more people opposed to him running than in favor? Maybe that exorcism thing made a wider impression than we realize. Or maybe this is a case where the answer isn’t a fair proxy for party enthusiasm: People may have concluded that he’s simply too young and needs to wait until 2016. For the record, he insisted just yesterday that he’s not running. Of course, he was in Iowa at the time.