Amid the “will she or won’t she” speculation about former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s 2012 presidential plans, one important thing seems to be getting lost: Palin is simply not a top-tier candidate.

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin speaks at a Tea Party Express rally on earlier this month in Manchester, N.H. (Darren McCollester/GETTY IMAGES)

She trails frontrunning Texas Gov. Rick Perry by 21 points and second-place finisher Mitt Romney wins three times the support Palin does in the poll.

And the bad news doesn’t stop there. Just 51 percent of self-identified Republicans in the poll said that Palin has the “personality” and leadership qualities a president should have” — well below the number who said the same of Perry (73 percent) and Romney (83 percent).

With electability rising as a concern among Republican voters, the fact that she trails President Obama by 21 points in a head-to-head matchup — the largest margin of any GOP candidate — is yet more bad news for Palin.

Palin’s struggles appear to be closely correlated to the rise of Perry, whose entrance into the race in mid-August fundamentally re-ordered the pecking order of candidates aggressively seeking tea party support.

In the last CNN/ORC poll conducted prior to Perry’s official entry into the race, Romney took 19 percent while Palin and Perry each took 15 percent and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann received 10 percent.

Since that time, Palin’s support has been whittled in half, while Bachmann stood at just 4 percent in the latest survey; Perry has seemingly co-opted the social conservative/tea party support of both women.

Palin allies will note that she is not yet in the race and that people tend to be hesitant to support someone who isn’t running. That will change, they argue, if she gets in.

Maybe. But unlike Cain or even Paul, is there anyone who either a) doesn’t know Palin or b) doesn’t have an opinion about her?

While she would undoubtedly blot out the sun when it comes to media coverage — especially in the early days of her candidacy — it’s hard to see how all of that coverage (and there would a A LOT of it) would or could fundamentally alter the impression people already have of her.

One poll is, well, one poll (see: “time, snapshot in”). But Palin’s numbers haven’t been particularly strong in quite some time — we wrote that she had reached a political tipping point way back in April — and Perry’s entrance into the contest has further complicated Palin’s path to top-tier status.

Palin has shown a tremendous capacity to surprise during her three-plus years on the national stage. But, the CNN poll suggests that there her bag of tricks may well be empty — or close to it.

Christie’s big speech: For the second time this month, all eyes will be on the Reagan library in Simi Valley, Calif.

Just weeks after the GOP debate there, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) will deliver a speech at the library titled “Real American Exceptionalism.” This is particularly interesting, given that American Exceptionalism has been a hot topic on the presidential campaign trail.

With continued indications and reports that the governor is rethinking his decision not to run for president, this speech will be mined for all kinds of clues about his intentions. We wouldn’t expect him to make the announcement in this setting, though.

For more on those pushing Christie to run, check out Nicholas Confessore’s piece in the New York Times today.

Another shutdown averted: Another potential government shutdown has been averted, after Senate Republicans and Democrats struck a deal Monday on disaster-relief funding.

Republicans had wanted all the disaster relief to be paid for. In the end, Democrats got less disaster relief money than they had hoped, while Republicans got fewer spending cuts than they had hoped.

It’s hard to see the political implications in this, except that the GOP continues to push the envelope on spending and is even willing to stick its neck out when it comes to something so sacred as disaster relief.

Incidentally, people trust the GOP less than they did a few months ago when it comes to the deficit.

NewDEAL hightlights six: A non-profit headed by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) that promotes local and state Democratic leaders is highlighting another crop of rising stars.

The NewDeal, which highlights up-and-coming Democrats with fresh ideas, has added six names to its list of honorees. The six are: Tennessee state Sen. Andy Berke, Kansas state House Minority Leader Paul Davis, Massachusetts state Senator Barry Finegold, Montgomery County (Ohio) Commissioner Dan Foley, Delaware state Rep. Helene Keeley, and Maryland state Del. Keiffer Mitchell.

Berke has been considered a potential candidate for Congress or governor, while Mitchell finished second in the 2007 race to replace O’Malley as mayor of Baltimore.

O’Malley and Begich co-chair the group, which launched in March.

Angle endorses Sowards in New Mexico: Former Nevada GOP Senate candidate and tea party favorite Sharron Angle has endorsed businessman Greg Sowards in the open New Mexico Senate race.

Sowards is running in the GOP primary against two more high-profile opponents: former congresswoman Heather Wilson and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez.

As the Hotline’s Sean Sullivan notes, this is the second-time this week that a key tea party leader has backed a lower-tier Senate candidate. On Monday, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and FreedomWorks both endorsed Nebraska state Treasurer Don Stenberg over state Attorney General Jon Bruning.


Obama’s health care bill gets closer to its date with the Supreme Court, and the case could be decided before the 2012 election.

As expected, New Jersey has moved its primary from February, where it was in violation of Republican National Committee rules, to June.

Perry’s team accuses Obama of exploiting the Texas wildfires for political purposes.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) is apparently so confident that he will win reelection in November that he is skipping debates.

The first ad of the race to replace former congressman David Wu (D-Ore.).

White House deputy senior adviser Stephanie Cutter will leave the administration for Obama’s reelection campaign at the end of the year.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a former member of House leadership, now eyes a leadership post in the Senate.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) is still in negative territory with his approval rating, and a repeal of his bill reducing union rights has majority support.


Romney’s easy road, so far” — Mark Murray, NBC News

Blue-State Math Is Boon to Obama, Target for GOP” — Gerald Seib, Wall Street Journal

Perry faces immigration hurdles in Iowa” — Michael Finnegan, Los Angeles Times


Herman Cain speaks his mind

Perry’s phony attack ad on Romney’s book

Hollywood heckler interrupts Obama