A Public Policy Polling (D) survey shows Romney leading former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in every region except the South, where Huckabee uses his home-field advantage to lead the field.

In the national poll, Romney leads Huckabee 33-27, while Palin trails in third place at 23 percent.

Palin lags behind despite having better favorability numbers than the two leading candidates. While 66 percent of voters like her, 55 percent like Huckabee and 54 percent like Romney. Romney's unfavorables are also the highest of the three, at 24 percent.

Huckabee leads Palin 37-25 in the South, where Romney languishes in third place. That's the same showing Romney had in the crucial South Carolina GOP primary in 2008.

The poll included only those three candidates and not other hopefuls, like Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

National presidential polls are instructive, but they mean little when it comes to the actual race. The real polls that count are those in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, as those early states tend to shape the race for the rest of the country.