Polls mixed on whether the GOP has room for more candidates

Normally, by mid-August the presidential field would be set. But the 2012 cycle is anything but normal: Rick Perry entered the race this weekend, and he may not be the last. Paul Ryan is reportedly pondering a run. Sarah Palin’s bus tour is up and running again. Rudy Giuliani has said he’ll make a decision by September. And Karl Rove is suggesting Chris Christie could still be a welcome addition.

Polling, too, suggests that several of those possible candidates could have an impact on the race.

In the Daily Caller/ConservativeHome tracking poll, Chris Christie has sat at or near the top of the pack since the beginning. In June, before he was removed from the poll, 15.2 percent of likely Republican primary voters said he was the most electable candidate, outperforming everyone except for Mitt Romney. And 14 percent named Christie their top choice for president, tying him with Sarah Palin, behind Herman Cain, but ahead of Mitt Romney. (RELATED: Who has the best job-growth record)

Paul Ryan was less of a powerhouse but performed well for someone whose name had not been discussed often as a presidential hopeful. In June, before he too was eliminated from polling contention, 6.5 percent named him as their top choice. That put Ryan near the bottom of the pack, but still above declared candidates John Huntsman, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich.

In other national polls, Palin and Giuliani regularly poll at the top. A national CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released last week found Giuliani and Palin tying Ron Paul for third place in the primary field, just three percentage points behind Mitt Romney. The same poll found that in a general election, only a Giuliani candidacy would deny President Obama four more years in the White House.

It’s worth noting, of course, that Giuliani was in the same position during the last presidential cycle — on top of the national polls — even after it became clear that he had no chance of winning the nomination.

For that reason, state-leve polls may be more instructive.

In the most recent WMUR/University of New Hampshire poll, conducted from end of June into the first of July, Giuliani ranked a distant third among Granite Staters, tying Ron Paul with 7 percent of the vote. Romney led with 35 percent, followed by Bachmann with 12 percent. Giuliani regularly polls around 7 percent in most New Hampshire polls.

Of course, the race changed considerably last weekend. Pawlenty is out, Perry is in, Bachmann is the favorite in Iowa after winning the Ames Straw Poll, and, for the moment at least, the race has a new front-runner in the Texas governor. So the old polling, at this point, is just that: old.

It’s still not clear what kind of impact the undeclared candidates could have if they jumped in.

“Palin’s on again, off again engagement with voters has worn thin and they have turned to Bachmann,” one Republican political consultant told TheDC. “There is virtually no one who will write a check to Rudy 2012 after Rudy ’08, and Bolton is not a politician, which is a requirement for getting elected. Ryan is a smart guy, and has to recognize that he is not ready”