Bachmann and T-Paw surging?

According to a new AP-GfK Poll, the tides continue to shift in the GOP primary as voters view debates, campaign launch speeches and interviews. The big movers in a positive direction? Michele Bachmann and T-Paw.

Republicans are starting to pay more attention to the candidates who hope to take on President Barack Obama next year, and so far that’s been a good thing for Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty.

Not for Newt Gingrich.

Overall, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows, Republicans are giving the field of challengers a so-so assessment as interest in the race increases. And, with growing doubts among Americans that Obama deserves re-election, Democratic interest in the GOP field is significant, too.

Mitt and Palin still hold the highest favorable ratings. (61 and 63 respectively, with Romney holding a steady lead among declared candidates.) Bachmann saw the biggest jump, from 41 to 53 among Republican respondents.

T-Paw got a ten point bump since the last poll, going from 33 to 43 in terms of favorable reviews. This has to be the most unexpected number in the poll. If you only listened to the talking heads on the cable networks, T-Paw’s failure to pull the trigger at the last debate had doomed him, but the rank and file primary voters don’t seem to be holding it against him.

Jon Huntsman is holding at a 23% approval rating, but the majority (59% down from 66%) still haven’t heard of him. Those who have become aware don’t seem to be impressed, since the one number which did change for Huntsman was his unfavorable rating from 11% to 17%, far below the number of voters who are still saying, “Jon who?”

Since I tend to look at trends far more than the hard numbers for any of these polls, the only serious lesson is that the field is far from being as settled as some experts would have you think. There’s a lot of fluidity in these numbers and too many voters are still exploring their options. It’s tough to say that anyone is really out of the running yet.