Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has spent the better part of the last five years working to convince conservatives that he is one of them. And, if the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll is right, he’s done it.

Sixty percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents view the potential GOP presidential candidate favorably, while just 21 percent see him in an unfavorable light.

That’s an improvement from where he stood in early January 2008 – in the heart of the GOP primary fight – when 55 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents viewed him favorably and 36 percent felt unfavorably toward him. And back in November 2007, Romney’s favorable score stood at 42 percent while 28 percent felt unfavorably toward him in Post/ABC data.

Perhaps more important for Romney as he gears up for a second presidential bid in 2012 are his numbers among the most conservative segments in the GOP. Sixty-eight percent of self-identified conservatives view Romney favorably; his numbers are even higher among the portion of that group who identify themselves as “very” conservative – with 71 percent seeing the former governor in a favorable light.

During the 2008 campaign, Romney struggled to convince Republicans and, in particular, conservatives that he was a genuine conservative despite some moderate-to-liberal stances he had taken on some social issues during the 1990s.

These numbers suggest that Romney may not have that problem in 2012, perhaps having (finally) won those skeptical conservatives over.

Of course, Romney has one big problem that he did not have in 2008 – namely the similarities between health care legislation he signed in Massachusetts and the national health care law championed by President Obama.

And, like all poll numbers, context matters.

Romney has spent the better part of the last two years doing little else other than raising money for and stumping with Republican candidates -- the sort of things that tend to draw positive local press and bump up any candidate’s favorable numbers.

As the 2012 primary race begins to engage over the next few months, Romney, who is widely regarded as the nominal frontrunner, will quickly become a target for his opponents – in much the same way he was during the last race.

The real test for Romney then will be how his favorable numbers stand up when his opponents attack on health care and try to paint him as insufficiently conservative. But, the poll numbers do suggest that he starts from a much-stronger position in this race than he did in the last one.

Analyzing the CR vote: A smattering of Republican freshmen and House members looking to run statewide highlighted a group of 48 Republicans who switched their votes from “yes” on the last continuing resolution to “no” on the one passed yesterday.

The Republicans were seeking to register their dismay with short-term extensions rather than passing a long-term bill. After six Republicans opposed the initial two-week continuing resolution earlier this month, 54 opposed the more recent one.

Among them were Reps. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Dean Heller (Nev.) and Mike Pence (Ind.), who are all running statewide. Also among the switchers were potential statewide candidates like Reps. Todd Akin (Mo.), Jason Chaffetz (Utah), Trent Franks (Ariz.), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Connie Mack (Fla.) and Steve Pearce (N.M.).

Among the other 39 vote-switchers, 19 were freshmen.

Also noteworthy: the number of Democrats voting for the continuing resolution increased from 85 last time to 104 this time. Given that the continuing resolutions contain cuts similar to the ones Republicans want long-term, that suggests some Demcorats might be coming around to the bigger cuts.

The bill passed the House 271-158 overall. The Senate is set to vote on the bill later this week. (The Hotline has a great whip count of how senators are expected to vote.)

Sandoval and Krolicki endorse Heller: Within hours of launching his Senate candidacy Tuesday, Rep. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) already had the support of Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) and Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki (R) — the latter having been mentioned as a possible Heller opponent.

It’s hard to look at the endorsements as anything but a strong message to 2010 GOP Senate nominee Sharron Angle — a message that reads: “Stay out of the Senate race.”

Angle was quiet about her intentions Tuesday, and a spokesman didn’t respond to The Fix’s requests for comments. But it’s hard to believe she’s not at least looking at her options.

She could also, of course, run for Heller’s House seat; she narrowly lost to him in a House primary in 2006. But that race wouldn’t be easy either — especially with Krolicki saying Tuesday that he would consider running for the Reno-based seat.

Of course, the establishment rallying against her may not have the desired effect on Angle. After all, she won the 2010 primary with little establishment support and doesn’t have much use for it anyways.

Either way, though, Angle’s much more of a known quantity now, and it’s not clear she would even be a player in a primary with Heller. She won in 2010 largely because the rest of the GOP field was weak, and with Heller, that’s hardly the case.

Fixbits:

Tim Pawlenty’s camp is out with a new video featuring the governor in New Hampshire.

Former Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D) is considering a run for governor in 2012. He would face Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R), who replaced John Hoeven (R) when Hoeven was sworn into the Senate. Pomeroy running for governor would also, of course, deprive Democrats of their top potential Senate candidate for retiring Sen. Kent Conrad’s (D) seat.

The entire Connecticut House delegation has endorsed Rep. Chris Murphy (D) over former secretary of state Susan Bysiewicz in the state’s Democratic Senate primary. Not surprise here.

If Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine runs for Senate in Virginia, Politico’s Jonathan Martin reports, Democrats are looking at former Ohio governor Ted Strickland to replace him.

To deal with millions of dollars in debt, the Republican National Committee is considering selling news outlets the broadcast rights for the presidential primary debates.

Arizona state Sen. Scott Bundgaard (R), who was detained by police last month after his involvement in a domestic violence incident, was removed as the state senate majority leader on Tuesday. He says he has no hard feelings.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s (I) approval rating is the lowest it has been in eight years in a new Quinnipiac poll.

Sarah Palin is taking aim at Obama on gas prices and drilling.

Must-reads:

Sarah Palin losing more ground among Republicans, Post-ABC poll finds” — Chris Cillizza and Jon Cohen, Washington Post

Jobless Rate at 2012 Presidential Vote Forecast at 7.7%” — Phil Izzo, Wall Street Journal

Santorum: Watch out, Mitt Romney!” — Hillary Chabot and Katy Jordan, Boston Herald

Pa. loses one House seat, but whose?” — Thomas Fitzgerald, Philadelphia Inquirer