The 2012 Republican presidential race was characterized by a lengthy series of boom-and-bust candidacies. First Michele Bachmann, then Rick Perry, then Herman Cain, then Newt Gingrich, then Rick Santorum. All briefly threatened Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination and quickly faded.

The first boomlet of the 2016 contest belongs to none other than Scott Walker.

First came the Iowa caucus poll over the weekend from Bloomberg and the Des Moines Register, showing the Wisconsin governor in first place (though not a statistically significant lead) at 16 percent. And it made sense, given Walker's strong reception at the Iowa Freedom Summit the weekend before.

But it's not just Iowa.

A new poll of the New Hampshire primary -- the second contest in the nomination process -- also showed Walker taking the lead. The automated Reach Communications poll from NH1 showed Walker at 21 percent, followed by Jeb Bush at 14 percent and the rest of the field at 8 percent or below. The same pollster tested the race two weeks ago and found Walker at just 8 percent.

And another automated poll in North Carolina from Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling showed Walker tied with Bush and Ben Carson for the lead at 14 percent, with Mike Huckabee at 13 percent. North Carolina could be one of the first states t0 vote, shortly after South Carolina.

Walker's ascendancy is less evident in Quinnipiac polls in some bigger states holding later contests. He was between 5 and 10 percent in polls conducted in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida and released Wednesday morning. But it's likely voters in those states aren't paying as close of attention.

Oh, and there was that whole Drudge Report poll which, while not scientific in the least, certainly isn't a bad thing for Walker. He took 44 percent, after all.

These polls come with all the usual caveats -- not least of which is that the first contests are still a year away and that Walker isn't actually a candidate yet. Things will change, but Walker is getting some early buzz, without question, and you'd rather have that than not.

It will be up to him to turn that into the kind of campaign that can follow through and win a presidential race.