Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight at the Times has a very interesting and typically numbers-rich post looking at the comparative strength of the 2012 Republican presidential candidates, as compared to the strength of past primary fields.
So it does look like Republicans have some legitimate reason to worry. In the previous five competitive primaries — excluding 2004 for the Republicans, when Mr. Bush won re-nomination uncontested — each party had at least two candidates whose net favorability ratings were in the positive double digits, meaning that their favorables bettered their unfavorables by at least 10 points. All five times, also, the nominee came from among one of the candidates in this group. Republicans have no such candidates at this point in time.
Meanwhile, the Republicans have two candidates in Ms. Palin and Mr. Gingirch whose net favorability ratings are actually in the double-digit negatives, something which since 2000 had only been true of Pat Buchanan and Al Sharpton.
Mike Huckabee is +8 and Mitt Romney is +4 with their favorability ratings. Thune, Daniels, DeMint, Pawlenty, and Barbour all have 0 to -3 ratings, but none have raw favorable nor unfavorable ratings above 20%, so there’s clearly room for them to grow in either direction.
At bottom Silver’s analysis suggests that this is not a strong field of candidates at this point in time. Much of the field would presumably benefit from voters getting to know them better, though that won’t necessarily help unless they’re actually decent candidates. Just ask Sarah Palin how people getting to know her has worked out.