He hasn’t waited, you say, he’s declared and raising more money than anyone else.  He’s simply playing the role of presumptive nominee, which explains his seemingly low-key public strategy.  Let other lesser contenders gain TV face time for now, the primaries are a long way off.

But as reported by Byron York, that strategy has seen his popularity relative to other actual and potential candidates falter:

A new  Gallup poll finds Mitt Romney still at the top of the Republican  presidential field, but with opponents closing in.  And in a sign of the  still-unsettled nature of the GOP race, Romney’s three closest pursuers aren’t  in the race.

When Gallup included the names of potential candidates in surveying  Republican and Republican-leaning voters, the results show Romney leading, with  17 percent of those polled; Texas Gov. Rick Perry in second, with 15 percent;  Sarah Palin, with 12 percent, Rudy Giuliani, with 11 percent; Michele Bachmann,  11 percent; Ron Paul, eight percent; Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich, with three  percent each; and Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Santorum, with two  percent each.  At the moment at least, Perry, Palin, and Giuliani are not  in the race.

Among Republicans who describe themselves as conservative, Romney is tied  with Perry, at 18 percent.  Among Republicans who describe themselves as  moderate or liberal, Romney actually trails Giuliani, 14 percent to 16 percent,  and is tied with Palin.

Has Romney’s absence from the public consciousness created a vacuum just waiting to be filled, or was there always going to be a vacuum so long as Romney was in the lead?

What says you?