It’s clear that the Beltway punditocracy really doesn’t want the Republican presidential primary to come down to Romney v. Huckabee. Been there, done that. C’mon GOP, give us some new meat to get our hooks into!

Nonetheless, that’s how the race is shaping up in the post-Osama era. Indeed, the latest Q-poll suggests that Romney would be comfortably out in front…if all of us chose the Republican nominee. The poll asks respondents to say if they were 1) “enthusiastic”; 2) “would consider voting” for; or 3) “would never vote” for a given candidate. Combining the first two categories against the third, Romney scores 53-27, for a score of +27. Coming in a reasonable second is Huckabee at 47-32, with a differential of +15. Then there’s Gingrich at -4 (38-42); Palin at -19 (39-58); and Trump at -23 (35-58).

As it happens, however, all of us don’t get to choose the Republican nominee, only Republicans do. And among them, things are less well sorted out. If they had to choose today, Q reports, it would be Romney 18, Huckabee 15, Palin 15, Trump 12, and Gingrich 5. Over at CNN, according to a poll completed just before the Osama killing, it’s Huckabee 16, Trump 14, Romney 13, Palin 11, Gingrich 10.

It does look as though the Trump balloon is losing altitude. His and Palin’s high negatives give them little room to grow. Gingrich’s Republican support has dropped by two-thirds since November. So far, the fresh faces have made barely a dent in the lumpenGOP consciousness. Of course someone may catch fire between now and Iowa. And (maybe) under pressure from Fox to decide, Huck could plump for the regular paycheck. As of now, my nickel’s on Mitt v. Mike.

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