The obvious takeaway at this early stage of the primary cycle is that the “generic Republican” is a more effective candidate than any specific Republican. In part, that’s because there’s a bit of a built-in bias in polling for more abstract forms of political allegiance. In these surveys, respondents are registering their reactions to Obama as a known political quantity, with a full array of perceived electoral strengths and weaknesses. Yet for the no-name Republican, “Respondents get to project the person they think is the most electable actual Republican or even an imaginary Republican that is not in the race,” as Wharton economist Justin Wolfers has observed.>

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