Rick Perry continues to hold a double digit lead over Mitt Romney nationally in the Republican Presidential race. He's at 31% to 18% for Romney, 11% for Ron Paul, 10% for Newt Gingrich, 9% for Michele Bachmann, 8% for Herman Cain, and 2% each for Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum.
In a sense these numbers are good news for both Perry and Romney. They're obviously good for Perry in that he's been able to maintain a double digit lead as the attacks have begun flying at him. But they're also good news for Romney because after a 2 month period of surging support for Perry his momentum has finally stopped. Certainly he's in a very strong position and he'll win the nomination if he can maintain it, but his support isn't still surging the way it had been poll after poll after poll.
Romney's biggest issue continues to be Tea Party voters. With Republicans who don't identify as members of that movement he leads Perry 28-26. But with active Tea Partiers he's stuck all the way back in a tie for 4th with Newt Gingrich at 10%, well behind Perry's 33%, Bachmann's 14%, and Cain's 13%. Romney doesn't need to win the Tea Party to be the Republican nominee but he has to be a lot more competitive than he is right now.
If the race came down to just Perry and Romney, Perry would have the advantage 49-37. That 12 point margin represents a tightening from the 16 point edge Perry had on that question at 52-36 three weeks ago. In the two way match up Perry picks up the support of Bachmann supporters (52-22), Cain voters (49-40), Gingrich backers (50-38), and those for Santorum (66-0). Romney gets Paul's people (38-33), Huntsman's (85-8), and those who are currently undecided on the nomination (42-21).
Perry is building much of his lead off the support of Republican primary voters who believe things that are well out of the mainstream of overall American public opinion. For instance:
-Perry leads Romney only 27-23 among GOP voters opposed to ending Medicare. But with the 12% who do support eliminating it Perry leads Romney 43-5, accounting for much of his overall lead.
-Only 33% of Republicans agree with Perry that Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme. But he's really running up the score with those who do, leading 40-15. That makes up for the fact that he has only a 24-23 advantage on Romney with voters who disagree with him on that front.
-Romney leads Perry 23-18 among GOP voters who believe in global warming...but that's only 27% of them. With the 62% who don't believe in it Perry's up 38-14. One interesting note on those numbers- Perry's favorability with Republicans who believe in global warming is 37/50. Are those folks going to vote for him in the general election if he ends up as the nominee?
-With Republicans who don't think Barack Obama is a Socialist Romney leads Perry 26-13...but with the 71% who do think Obama is a Socialist Perry is ahead 35-16.
The good news is pouring in for Republicans right now. But if there's a dark cloud ahead it's the possibility of ending up with a nominee who's gone so far outside the mainstream to win over Republican primary voters that he can't win the center against Obama. It's something to keep an eye on.
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