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Poll: Rick Perry enters Google debate as GOP front-runner

September 22, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli | Washington Bureau
(Joe Raedle/Getty Images )

Texas Gov. Rick Perry enters tonight'sFox News/Google debate in Orlando as the front-runner in Florida's presidential primary, a new poll shows.

The Quinnipiac University survey shows Perry leading former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, 28%-22%, if former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is included.

In a sample without Palin, registered Republican voters prefer Perry, 31%-22%. In neither sample, no other candidate registers in double digits.

Offered the option of only Perry or Romney, respondents choose Perry, 46%-38%, with 12% undecided.

This is the second debate in nearly as many weeks in Florida, a state jockeying with several others to be among the first nominating contests of the 2012 presidential cycle. The primary date has not yet been set, but will likely follow traditional leadoff contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, as well as Nevada.

With a high concentration of senior voters, the state could be a major test for Perry, whose claims that Social Security is a "Ponzi scheme" have been the focal point of discussion in the GOP race.

The poll asked voters if Social Security should continue to be run by the federal government or if it should be turned over to the states. Among Republican respondents, only 38% supported Perry's view that it should be turned over to the states; 24% of all respondents agreed.

But 60% of Republican respondents said they think Perry wants to fix, rather than end, Social Security; just 14% said he wants to do the latter.

Florida is also certain to again be a key general election battleground, and the Quinnipiac survey has troubling signs for President Obama.

In hypothetical matchups, Obama is essentially tied with Perry and trails Romney by 7 points. Obama's job-approval rating is now just 39%, an all-time low, and just 41% say he deserves to be reelected, while 53% say he does not.

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