A straw in the wind?

A PPP poll shows that Michele Bachmann is easily the first choice of Minnesota Republicans to run for the Senate in 2012. 36 percent say they prefer her as the nominee, compared to 20 percent for Tim Pawlenty and 14 percent for Norm Coleman.
I have no idea whether any of these three is interested in running for the Senate in 2012. But I think this poll adds credence to some of my speculation about what to expect in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries.
I’ve been suggesting that, if she runs, Sarah Palin might be able to attract 30 to 35 percent of the primary vote in many states. In a crowded field, might well be sufficient to propel her into a clear lead after the first wave of primaries. I’ve also speculated that candidates considered less staunchly conservative, e.g., Mitt Romney and Pawlenty, might find it difficult to stay with Palin.
The PPP results from Minnesota are consistent with this speculation. For Michele Bachmann to be so far ahead of the state’s popular governor seems like a good sign for Sarah Palin. And it’s plainly not a good sign for Pawlenty and his presidential aspirations, assuming he has some.
We shouldn’t make too much of this, though. Palin might well face competition from, say Mike Huckabee or Newt Gingrich, for a good portion of the 35 percent of the support Bachmann garners in the PPP poll. Moreover, Bachmann is obviously well-qualified to serve in the Senate; Palin’s qualifications for the presidency are less obvious.
Still, there’s good reason to believe that, as in 2010, the 2012 Republican primaries will be fertile ground for candidates who are perceived as hard-right, and less hospitable territory for candidates viewed as merely center-right.
JOHN adds: For what it’s worth, and it doesn’t contradict Paul’s point, I’m involved in recruiting a candidate for the 2012 Senate seat, and the working assumption is that none of the individuals named in the PPP poll will be vying for the seat. Of course, that could change.

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