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Rick Perry tops GOP poll, but Mitt Romney has edge against Obama

August 31, 2011|By Michael Muskal | Los Angeles Times
  • Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry visits the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines on Aug. 15.
Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry visits the Iowa… (Charles Dharapak, Associated…)

Rick Perry has taken the lead in the Republican presidential sweepstakes, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday, but the survey also shows that the fiery Texas governor may have a tougher time against President Obama than the other leading GOP aspirant, Mitt Romney.

According the poll, Perry is preferred by Republicans over former Massachusetts Gov. Romney, 24% to 18%, similar to the findings of other major nonpartisan polls that show Perry taking over the top spot from Romney. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has yet to declare her intentions, was at 11%, a statistical dead heat with Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann at 10% and Texas Rep. Ron Paul at 9%.

Bachmann, the winner of the Ames, Iowa. straw poll and Paul, who placed second, have been campaigning for months. Perry, by contrast, formally declared his candidacy just this month.

“Gov. Rick Perry has sprinted out of the gate as a candidate for the GOP nomination,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “Being the new kid on the block has benefited Perry. But with prominence comes scrutiny and both his Republican competitors and the Democrats are doing their best to convince voters he’s not Mr. Wonderful.”

Perry also benefits from a feeling in some of the more conservative parts of the GOP that Romney is an unacceptable candidate because of what are perceived to be more moderate positions on healthcare reform and other domestic issues. Romney has fought hard to portray himself as a conservative businessman rather than as the former governor of a liberal state.

That has led to fears in some Republican circles that the GOP may be heading to its version of the 1972 presidential election, when liberal Democrats nominated one of their own, Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota, who went down in flames to Richard Nixon. Perry may be a better ideological fit for the conservative wing, but it is unclear whether he can attract independents needed to defeat Obama.

While Perry leads the Republican field, Romney seems to pose a stronger challenge to Obama in a general election, according to the Quinnipiac poll of all voters. Romney and Obama each would win about 47% but Obama runs ahead of Perry 45% to 42%. Obama comfortably leads Bachmann 48% to39% and Palin 51% to 37%.

Both Romney and Obama run well among voters within their own party, but Romney has a 46% to 40% lead among independents, according to the poll. Men lean toward Romney, 47% to 43%, while women lean to Obama, 46% to 43%.

Perry also received the top spot in a CNN/ORC poll released this week, winning 27% to Romney's 14%.

The Quinnipiac poll is based on interviews with 2,730 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.9 percentage points. On the GOP preference questions, the poll surveyed 1,185 Republicans with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 points.

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