Nate Silver writes:
Former first lady Nancy Reagan announced plans Thursday to invite the leading Republican contenders to the first debate of the presidential primary season, to be held at her late husband’s presidential library and co-hosted by POLITICO and NBC News.
The debate, sponsored by the Reagan Presidential Foundation, will be held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif., during the spring of 2011. NBC News will serve as the television partner for the debate while POLITICO is the online content partner.
Based on the objective indicators — which is to say, the polls — you have four clear front-runners: Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich. Each has comfortably over 80 percent name recognition among Republicans, and they are about 10 points ahead of any other candidates in trial heats that have tested various combinations of the candidates against one another. Each is also pretty well liked among Republicans. All have strong television presences and the makings of a campaign infrastructure. They all have pretty distinct brands. Three of the four — Ms. Palin (Tea Party conservatives), Mr. Huckabee (southern and religious conservatives) and Mr. Romney (moderates and fiscal conservatives) — have fairly natural constituencies within the Republican base. Mr. Gingrich, whose demographics probably overlap to some extent with Ms. Palin’s, is perhaps the exception.