For what it's worth, YouGov/Economist has [Palin] leading the horse race with 28%; that doesn't strike me as a very impressive total for a candidate with excellent name recognition against a bunch of unknowns.To which commenter Mercer replied:
I would not describe Huck and Romney as unknown.Well, yes and no.
Here's the deal. For most of the people reading this, the presidential primary season in 2007-2008 went on for months. There were debates, and announcements of candidacy, and adds, and blog posts, and more debates, and Iowa, and New Hampshire, and Nevada and South Carolina, and that Florida and Michigan thing, and Super Tuesday, and then on through the rest of the calendar. On the GOP side, there was John McCain, frontrunner, followed by John McCain, collapsed campaign...there was Romney, and there was new hope Fred Thompson, and there was Rudy Giuliani waiting in the wings, and then Thompson faded, and Huckabee won Iowa, and McCain was suddenly back, and then Romney won somewhere, and...well, you remember it. Because you're far, far, more interested in this stuff than 90%, maybe 99%, of the American people -- or else you wouldn't be reading this!
For most people, the 2007-2008 primary season was somewhere in the background for a while...there was Hillary Clinton, and then a funny-named guy, and then suddenly it came to my state and for two weeks I had these damn ads on my TV every time I flip the channel and then it went away, and Jay Leno was making fun of a bunch of pols like he always does and there were a new set of names but the jokes were just the same (Those politicians? They're all crooks! Hahaha), and then, oh, it's an election year and the candidates are McCain and Obama and there are more ads that won't go away.
Pick something that you pay no attention to. For my dad, I always suggest NASCAR. My dad has read a sports page every day since he was a little kid; he still gets (as do I) a real, honest-to-goodness local newspaper on his front porch every morning. He must have seen the names of NASCAR drivers thousands of times, but odds are he's only stopped to read a story if it had something in the headline that really caught his attention (someone from the Bronx, or Jewish, or both, might do it). If you asked him to name a NASCAR driver he'd probably look at you as if you were nuts...but if you named some of them, he'd probably recognize the names. The idea is that lots and lots of people have about that level of knowledge about most of what happens in politics. It's just background noise. We, the people who write and read political blogs, and watch debates, and pay attention to politics even in the off season --we're the minority.
Of course, with politics unlike sports, we're "supposed" to be paying attention, and a lot of people probably don't like to admit that they really aren't. So when the pollsters come around and ask what you think of Mitt Romney? It's a name you heard at some point, and you might even know he's a Republican, and beyond that not much, but it's not too hard to say whether you like him or not. And to be fair, if we're talking primary voters, we're really not talking about my dad and NASCAR. It's more like a sports fan's 6th or 7th sport she follows. That's how I am these days with hockey -- I wound up watching several games of the NHL finals this year, but if you had asked me about Detroit's team in mid-season I'd have had no idea, and if you asked me now I'm not sure I could remember anyone, although back then I could have talked about it with you a little, and I may tune in again next spring.
So, yes, Huck and Romney aren't complete unknowns. But for most primary voters, they might as well be. More generally, it's just real hard sometimes for those of us who pay a lot of attention to politics to get around the idea of how little attention most others pay, including the broad category of those who vote most of the time but that's about it.