Texas governor and Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry greets… (Larry W. Smith / EPA )
Buoyed by his recent entry into the 2012 presidential contest, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has jumped past former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and leads the GOP field for the first time, according to a new Gallup poll of Republican voters.
The national survey showed Perry leading Romney by a double-digit margin—29% to 17%. It also found that Michele Bachmann got no significant bounce from her victory in an Iowa straw poll, which was overshadowed by Perry’s announcement speech the same day.
Bachmann has dropped three percentage points, to 10%, since the previous Gallup poll, conducted in late July. A more relevant measure of Bachmann’s prospects will await the next reputable poll in Iowa, where she and Perry are facing off in the most important early test of the Republican race.
Romney, who has waged an unusually low-profile campaign for a purported front-runner, has seen his support drop steadily for two straight months in Gallup polling. He has lost one-third of his support since June, according to Gallup.
The survey of 1,040 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, released Wednesday, was based on interviews between Aug. 17 and Aug. 21 and has a margin of sampling error of four percentage points. It is the first Gallup poll conducted since Perry entered the race and made campaign appearances in early-voting states.
Rep. Ron Paul, who was fourth in the previous Gallup survey, moved up to third, with 13%, a gain of three points since the last Gallup survey. The rest of the GOP field was clustered below 5 percentage points.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who has been struggling to get early traction, fell to 1%, and placed last among the eight announced candidates included in the Gallup survey.
Early polling in presidential contests is often an unreliable measure of a candidate’s eventual strength. In the year before the last presidential election, for example, Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Rodham Clinton often placed first.
However, as Gallup pointed out in an analysis of its results, it is clear that Perry has shaken up the GOP race and is drawing positive reactions from Republican voters who say they are familiar with him. Still, he is a weaker front-runner than GOP favorites in past elections, and must still prove that his late-starting candidacy won’t fade after the initial excitement wears off.
The new national poll showed Perry doing particularly well among Southerners, voters over 65 and those who attend church weekly. He outperformed Romney among all age groups and among those who describe themselves as conservatives, a key GOP primary group.
Romney runs roughly even with Perry among GOP moderates and those from the East and Midwest.
Sarah Palin and Giuliani, who have said they might run, are essentially tied for third, at 11% and 9%, respectively, when their names are added to the mix.