I’m … pretty sure that’s not true.

In the GOP primary, Romney’s 20 percent was followed by Sarah Palin (12 percent), Newt Gingrich (9 percent), Rudy Giuliani (7 percent), Ron Paul (5 percent), Michele Bachmann (4 percent), Herman Cain (4 percent), Mitch Daniels (4 percent), Tim Pawlenty (3 percent) and Rick Santorum (3 percent), with 20 percent undecided. Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson and Buddy Roemer all received less than 1 percent.

“With Huckabee and Trump out of the race, the whole dynamic has changed,” said David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Boston’s Suffolk University. “Romney is the clear front-runner now; that’s a position he’ll have to be prepared to defend over the coming months.”…

When asked if the president deserved to be re-elected, 48 percent of respondents said it is time to give someone else a chance, while 43 percent said Obama deserves re-election. Regardless of their personal preferences, 46 percent of likely voters said they expect Barack Obama will remain president in 2012, compared with 37 percent who felt that one of the Republican candidates will be the next president.

An eight-point lead — at just 20 percent! — over a candidate who’s not even a candidate yet must surely be the thinnest “frontrunner” status in political history. In fact, not one but two major stories online today are devoted to how even Romney’s ostensible base among the Republican establishment is eager for alternatives. Kirby Wilbur, chairman of the Washington GOP, reacted to his $10 million single-day fundraising haul by telling the AP that “A lot of Republicans are hoping someone new pops up.” And Politico, in a classic bit of link-bait aimed directly at pushing the buttons of grassroots conservatives, addressed the desperate schoolgirlish yearning of the GOP elite for Mitch Daniels to jump in and give them someone to rally behind. The money quote:

Romney’s support remains lukewarm. “People say, ‘I wrote him a check, but I’m not going to kill myself for him, like I did last time,’” a well-connected Republican said. “If you listen long enough, to enough people, you pick that up a lot.”…

There is one other scenario, and it terrifies Washington Republicans. That is the possibility that some very conservative, insurgent candidate will become the Romney alternative: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum or former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, if she defies conventional wisdom and winds up going for it.

“Republicans could have the situation that Democrats did in 1972, when the base of the party was so far outside the mainstream,” said one top Republican. Back then, George McGovern was the Democratic nominee and lost 49 states to President Richard Nixon.

What if Palin jumps in and instantly siphons off the bulk of support from “true conservative” all-stars like Bachmann and Herman Cain? The elites will go into panic mode and look to rally around a single centrist-type candidate in hopes of heading her off, but there are potentially four prominent governors in the race capable of filling that role — Romney, Pawlenty, Daniels, and Huntsman. How will the establishment choose one and then clear out the rest in order to pose a clear “Palin/Not Palin” choice for primary voters? The answer, presumably, lies with New Hampshire. If the winner in Iowa looks like he/she could sweep all the way to the nomination, then the winner of the de facto centrist primary in NH will be anointed the best bet to stop them. If, as expected, that’s Romney, there’ll be tremendous pressure on the other three to drop out and endorse him before South Carolina, where the Iowa winner will have a social-conservative advantage. But then, precisely because the emphasis after Iowa will shift among the establishment towards stopping the winner of the caucuses, you may see a massive push on Pawlenty’s behalf before New Hampshire to make sure he wins and heads into South Carolina with a head of steam. He’s the guy regarded as most electable among the centrist four, I think, and electability will be at a premium if the results in Iowa throw a scare into the elites. So there’s T-Paw’s back-up plan in case he flames out in Iowa and disappoints everyone — sheer terror among Republicans that Romney or Daniels can’t stop the Iowa winner in South Carolina, even if one of them wins NH.

As for Iowa itself, I keep hearing rumblings about Bachmann but it’s Herman Cain who has the grassroots juice, first in our own straw poll a few days ago and today in the Daily Caller’s new poll. His share of the vote is small — just 15 percent — but it’s enough to lead, and proof that he’s making an impression. Here’s video of Mitt from his big moneybomb in Vegas a few days ago. I wonder at what point grassroots sentiment towards him will change from “RINO!” to “yeah, I guess I could vote for him if I had to.” I’m thinking … victory in South Carolina. Nothing less.