Mitt Romney is a weak frontrunner

According to another CNN poll, Giuliani is the candidate that GOP voters most want to join the race. And it turns out that for all the newfound support that Romney enjoys, it’s largely due to his recent announcement that he’s running. The same is true of Sarah Palin, whose support rose to 20%, second only to Romney, after she launched her national bus tour. Giuliani, who led Romney and Palin in a CNN poll two weeks ago when news of his possible candidacy resurfaced, still ranks high with GOP voters. Should he jump into the race, as many observers now expect, his poll numbers are likely to rise sharply once again.

Why should Republicans vote for Romney? Assuming that no other credible candidates join the race and he becomes the nominee, they should, of course. One poll found that nearly two-thirds of U.S. voters think that Romney could beat Obama in 2012. That doesn’t mean they’d vote for Romney over Obama themselves — just that they think lots of other voters might. That’s a powerful perception, much like the perception that Romney is the GOP frontrunner.

But that perception is likely to be tested in the coming weeks as one Republican after another throws his hat into the ring — former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman next week, Giuliani perhaps the following, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry and perhaps South Dakota Senator John Thune soon thereafter. There’s a reason that so many GOP donors — and influential national and state political operatives — are refusing to commit to any candidate yet.

As Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over til it’s over.” Not only is this race not over, it’s just getting underway.

Stewart J. Lawrence is a Washington, D.C.-based public policy analyst who writes frequently on immigration and Latino affairs. He is also founder and managing director of Puentes & Associates, Inc., a bilingual survey research and communications firm.