With a whopping 3.8 million votes now having been cast, Paul Ryan (1st) and Chris Christie (2nd) continue to lead the 2012 Tea Party Presidential Poll. Ryan and Christie have said that they are not planning to try to unseat President Obama, but the American people, or at least the significant share of Americans who consider themselves to be Tea Party voters, clearly want them to do so. In truth, the fact that these two men haven’t yet thrown their hats into the ring makes it all the more striking that they are handily beating all other prospective GOP presidential candidates.

Rounding out the Tea Party top-5 are Michele Bachmann, Scott Walker, and Jim DeMint (followed by Rand Paul and Sarah Palin). Another popular Tea Party figure, Mike Pence, wasn’t included in the Tea Party poll because he had already announced his intention to run instead for governor of Indiana — which has less than twice as many people as the number of votes cast in the poll. But Pence could always reconsider.

The Tea Party Presidential Poll is conducted by the same folks who did the Tea Party’s Contract from America. While it isn’t scientific—it doesn’t try to replicate the views of the entire population or the entire Tea Party—it is likely the best available gauge of Tea Party sentiment and enthusiasm at a time when scientific polls are offering little more than essentially meaningless evidence of name-recognition.

Unlike other polls, the Tea Party Presidential Poll offers the advantages of registering unfavorable as well as favorable opinions; displaying the pictures of potential candidates — much as the candidates would themselves be visible on a debate stage — and registering some degree of voter intensity by letting people vote multiple times, while protecting against ‘ballot stuffing’ by only having a voter’s favorite candidate emerge periodically in its randomly generated sequences of pairings. Moreover, it has so far tallied well over 1,000 responses for every 1 response given in a typical poll.

As for George Will’s “five plausible” Republican presidential candidates — Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, Mitt Romney, and Jon Huntsman — they rank, in order, 9th, 17th, 19th, 23rd, and 27th, in the Tea Party Presidential Poll. Since a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that more than half (53 percent) of those who plan to vote in the Republican presidential primaries are self-described Tea Party voters, there seems to be a fundamental disconnect here.

That disconnect, which has the potential to prove quite damaging to Republican prospects next fall, may well be resolvable only by having Ryan, Christie, and/or Pence (or Walker?) enter the presidential race.

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