A recent Gallup survey shows that, among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, Herman Cain has the highest net favorability rating of anyone in the current GOP presidential field. Cain’s net favorability rating among those who are familiar with him is +62 points (77 percent hold a favorable opinion of him, while 15 percent hold an unfavorable opinion). Rick Perry is 2nd, with a +54 net favorability rating among those who are familiar with him (71 percent favorable, 17 percent unfavorable). Most of the 2-week survey, however, was conducted before the most recent GOP debate (in which Perry struggled) and before the subsequent Florida straw poll (won by Cain) — so the gap between Cain and Perry has likely widened.

Mitt Romney is 3rd, 2 points behind Perry, with a net favorability rating of +52 (72 percent favorable, 20 percent unfavorable). Rick Santorum is 4th, at +46 (65 to 19), followed by Newt Gingrich in 5th (+34, 64 to 30), Michele Bachmann in 6th (+33, 62 to 29), Ron Paul in 7th (+25, 57 to 32), and Jon Huntsman in 8th (+19, 51 to 32).

Cain also ranks first among those who feel “strongly” (either way), as 27 percent have a “strongly favorable” opinion of him, while only 1 percent hold a “strongly unfavorable” opinion.

The poll did not ask about Chris Christie, but it did ask about two other big-name Republicans who reportedly are still toying with entering the race: Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani. Palin’s net favorability rating is +35 (66 percent favorable, 31 percent unfavorable), which would put her in 5th place, in between Santorum and Gingrich.

Giuliani’s net favorability rating, meanwhile, is +63 (79 percent favorable, 16 percent unfavorable), which would put him in 1st. At this point a year ago, Giuliani’s flameout in 2008 and his moderate positions on social issues seemed to preclude the possibility of his mounting a competitive campaign this time around. But if Christie doesn’t run, Gallup’s polling suggests that a GOP electorate that’s looking for alternatives might welcome the addition of Giuliani’s name on the board.

Either Cain or Giuliani would certainly pose matchup problems for Obama that he didn’t likely anticipate — Cain because of his business expertise, personal appeal, and welcome ability to help the party of Lincoln and the freedmen finally reconnect with an important natural constituency; Giuliani because of his leadership abilities, general aura of competence, and clear ability to appeal to independent voters.

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