I really like the second and third paragraphs of this post by Matt Yglesias about Mitt Romney. I have some cautions, however, about the first paragraph and the title ("Mitt Romney Polls Pretty Well"). Romney is at 24% in the Gallup poll that Yglesias points to. How strong is that? For a frontrunner, not very.
Looking at Nate Silver's summary tables on early polling, what you can see is that the frontrunners who won all cleared 30% in early polling averages. Many of them cleared it by quite a bit: Bob Dole in 1996 was at 47%, George W. Bush in 2000 was at 46%. Romney also has solid, although not universal, name recognition. What I think this adds up to is that there's no reason so far to believe that Romney is actually polling well. All we're really finding out so far is that the field is split in three ways. Several candidates are well-known but unpopular: Palin, Newt, Ron Paul, Giuliani (Rudy isn't tested in the latest Gallup poll, but he's very well known and doesn't score well when he is included). A large bunch including Pawlenty, Bachmann, Santorum, Cain, and whoever else I'm leaving out, are just not very well known. And then there's Romney: well-known, not especially disliked, but not especially liked, either.
All of this can change fairly rapidly. Whoever wins Iowa will jump to full name recognition overnight, in plenty of time to take advantage of it in New Hampshire and the rest of the calendar. Two good weeks of heavy positive coverage on Fox News can, presumably, affect positive views of a candidate, as well.
As Yglesias indicates, it's important what party elites say about the candidates, and also important how Fox News and Rush and the rest treat them. It's also important what activists think, and what campaign and governing professionals think. Voters themselves may well be a factor (partially) independent of all of that. And remember, each of those groups may be internally divided.
So, again, I'd pay a lot more attention to news about elite opinions of the candidates than to polling results, especially this early in the process. But if you are going to look at polling, at the very least it has to be read in the context of history and name recognition, and with those things in mind Romney's 24% is certainly nothing special.