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Quietly and steadily, Mitt Romney continues to creep ahead in developing Republican race

June 23, 2011 |  6:38 am

Republican Mitt Romney campaigns in Colorado 6-11

The summer has just begun. It's still very early. A lot can happen in the 14 month run-up to the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Yada Yada Yada.

But right now Republican voters seem to have decided a) they're more interested in winning than refining social issue purity, b) the economy is the top topic (also No. 2  and 3 actually) and c) they seem to be lining up for now behind Mitt Romney as their guy. More than half say they're dissatisfied with the overall field, so nothing is set in cement yet.

Romney, a former governor who finished behind another former governor, Mike Huckabee, and the old pilot back in the 2008 GOP race has actually been quietly running ever since.

He's been raising money for himself and others and making endless small talk from table to table at countless Lincoln Day dinners and beyond. People don't forget that. And if a candidate remembers their name at the next encounter, he or she has won a vote.

Romney's been the presumed frontrunner all year and some polls show him now pulling ahead of the rest of the field after just one New Hampshire debate.

This morning comes a new Bloomberg National Poll documenting that nearly six-out-of-ten Republicans (59%) hold a favorable view of the successful businessman who salvaged the 2002 Winter Olympics and made a private fortune. While only 16% hold a negative view of him.Michele Bachmann

This, of course, paints a large crosshair on the 64-year-old Romney's back and chest too for the other much lesser known GOP wannabes to attempt to boost his negatives in the upcoming debates.

Another helpful finding if the party of Lincoln is interested in actually defeating the Illinois guy: Romney is already 10 points more popular than unpopular among those decisive independent voters.

The new Bloomberg survey finds Romney's party and the tea party wing in less favor among many voters.

Primary races are a time of testing for candidates and learning the galactic array of local issues that form the political templates of crucial early states -- Iowa, where Romney will not be competing hard, New Hampshire, where he seems to rule, South Carolina, Florida and beyond.

This is Romney's second political prom and he looks more comfortable and confident than the others so far.

While the media tends to focus on scheduled events like debates, straw polls and candidate forums, many primary voters use those events to confirm impressions they've already developed through a series of anecdotal experiences watching and listening over many months.

Thus, the new folks -- Michele Bachmann will be officially running next week and probably Rick Perry later -- have some ground to catch up. Bloomberg found Bachmann already has 43% favorable vs only 12% unfavorable.

She's been out speaking quietly at state events for more than a year now and, according to some long-time pols we've checked with, impressed many with her speaking style, personal story, energy and ideas.

After all the hoo-hah and excitement surrounding the fresh, new change agent in the 22-month long 2008 primary and general elections -- and the disappointment of many in him and the economy since -- we may be seeing now the quiet evolution of Republican voter comfort with a more stolid style of change.

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Obama admits thinking like a Republican some days i.e. one term for himself

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: John Moore / Getty Images; Emmanuel Dunand / AFP / Getty Images (Bachmann).

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