Does McCain Have a Ceiling? (II)

Maybe not. Daniel Larison unpacks that new CNN poll showing McCain bursting out to a national lead:

When asked how they would feel after the nomination of each candidate, 31% said they would be enthusiastic about McCain, 46% would be satisfied, 18% would be dissatisfied and only 5% would be upset. It seems as if that 5% is overwhelmingly concentrated in conservative media outlets and activists in their audiences. For Huckabee, the numbers are revealing: 20/52/20/7. Only 7% would be upset with the huckster, whom we have been assured would rend the coalition to bits. For Giuliani the numbers are similar: 21/49/21/8. Romney understandably generates the least enthusiasm and satisfaction put together (14/50) and the highest dissatisfied + upset number (27/6). The choice of many movement conservatives, the champion of the three-legged stool, Romney apparently rallies the GOP less effectively than any of the others. These numbers have obviously changed since November and could always change back (Romney and Giuliani have lost ground in generating an enthusiastic response), but if you were designing the GOP ticket with party unity and enthusiasm as your only criteria you would, bizarrely, be pushed towards selecting McCain or Huckabee. The last one of the four you would select would be Romney. This intuitively makes sense to me, since I think Romney is awful, but it really calls into question the judgement that he is the most “viable” in the field.

Now, one could argue that many voters in a national poll won't have been paying close attention to the race, so the fact that McCain and Huckabee are both anathema to many people in the conservative movement - and the reasons why they're so hated - haven't registered with most Republican voters. On the other hand, the respondents been playing close enough attention to have turned away from Romney and Rudy, and if these numbers do reflect at least semi-informed judgment on the part of the GOP electorate, it makes the "Romney's Long March" scenario look a lot less plausible. It also makes it seem as though the McCain camp should be rooting for Romney to stay viable and Huckabee to fade, rather than the reverse, since Huck seems to have the broader base of potential national support if the race drags on toward spring.