The stars appear to be aligning for a GOP showdown between Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin for the Republican Party's 2012 presidential nomination.

In a new Gallup poll Romney and Palin lead the field of GOP presidential contenders with 17 percent and 15 percent, respectively, of votes from likely Republican voters.

Romney, who "bets his candidacy on the economy" in the eyes of Washington Post columnist Dan Balz, will officially announce his presidential candidacy Thursday in New Hampshire.

Although Palin has not disclosed whether she intends to run for president in 2012, several factors indicate she is gearing up for a political campaign: she kicked off a nationwide bus tour Sunday by appearing at a high-visibility motorcycle rally in Washington, D.C., and next month in key battleground state Iowa she will unveil a documentary about her tenure as Alaska's governor.

The Los Angeles Times contextualizes the significance of the new Palin documentary and its Iowa premiere: "A feature-film-length documentary on Sarah Palin's political career will debut in Iowa next month, reviving speculation that the former Alaska governor could jump into the 2012 presidential race after all. … Palin has seemed disinterested in a presidential run and has done little to build a national network or chase donors. But the film — and the choice of an Iowa premiere — appears to be a concerted effort to re-inject herself into the mix, as well as an attempt to refurbish her sinking political reputation."

John Dickerson at Slate analyzes how Romney stands to gain from Palin entering the race: "The view among Republican strategists involved with various current and past campaigns is that Romney benefits from Palin's entry. Romney's supporters are unlikely to leave him for Palin. Palin not only steals a portion of the anti-Romney vote from candidates like Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman; she also steals available television airtime. She makes it harder for second-tier candidates to get noticed."

Speaking of Huntsman, the former Utah governor received 2 percent of the votes in the new Gallup poll. Nonetheless, many media outlets consider Huntsman to be a serious player in the GOP presidential field. For example, he recently garnered front-page coverage in USA Today.

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