First up, here's the state of the race, according to the national polls conducted in the last fortnight:
As you can see, Palin is currently running a clear second, trailing Mitt Romney by around 3 to 4 points, but 4 points ahead of the rest of the field. However, at this early stage of the race, poll ratings are largely about name recognition. According to Gallup, around 95 per cent of Republican voters recognise Sarah Palin, while Romney is on 85 per cent, Tim Pawlenty is on 50, Herman Cain on 37 and Jon Huntsman on 30. This makes Palin's 14 per cent in the polls somewhat less impressive: one-in-seven of those who have heard of her have her as their first choice. For Romney it's one-in-five, while for Cain it's more than one-in-four:
The problem for Palin is that she has less room than most of her rivals to grow: almost all Republican voters (95 per cent) have heard of her, and most (92 per cent) have already formed an opinion of her. And a lot of that opinion is negative. In total, 27 per cent of Republicans view her unfavourably, compared to 14 per cent for Romney and 5 per cent for each of Pawlenty, Huntsman and Cain. That's not a particularly good position from which to start a campaign.
One man who will surely be hoping that Palin can secure the nomination is Barack Obama. If Palin's negatives are high among Republican voters, that's nothing compared to how bad they are among the electorate as a whole. Around 60 per cent of Americans have an unfavourable opinion of the former Governor of Alaska. Just one-in-three view her positively. Palin also performs significantly worse than her fellow Republicans in head-to-head polling against Obama:
So, run Sarah, run. Or don't. Either way, you won't be in the White House come 2013.