Rick Perry has opened up such an overwhelming lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination that other candidates are being forced to rethink their campaigns.
The Texas governor is now poised to get more than two votes for every one that goes to his closest rival, Mitt Romney, among primary GOP voters in the crucial state of South Carolina, a new Public Policy Polling survey reveals. A Quinnipiac poll gives him a 24-18 percent lead over Romney nationally.
The two polls, released on Tuesday and Wednesday, confirm previous findings that have put Perry way ahead in the scramble to take on President Barack Obama in November 2012.
|Rick Perry mingles with supporters in Iowa this weekend. (AP Photo)
And that means that Romney and other candidates now have to change their game plan as they attempt to shake off the dust kicked up by Perry’s late entry into the contest.
“The world has changed in the primary,” GOP consultant Mike Murphy told Politico, adding that other candidates now have little choice but to dump their passive strategies. “They have to decide how and where they beat Perry,” said Murphy.
Perry officially threw his hat in the ring less than three weeks ago, but in that time he has left the rest of the crowded field way behind. He initially took much support from Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann but now is creaming off Romney supporters too.
Romney backers insist the former Massachusetts governor is not panicking and point out that Perry’s support is bound to drop off as the novelty factor of his candidacy wears off and as his policies and background come under more media scrutiny.
They also say that until it is known who will remain in the race going into the first primaries, it will be difficult to gauge where votes from less popular candidates will end up.
Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who backs Romney, told Politico he feels the former front-runner “needs to step it up several notches.”
“The low-key campaign has served him well to this point, but coming out of Labor Day, he needs to be a lot more aggressive, Lott added.
The latest pair of polls made gloomy reading for all candidates apart from Perry.
The PPP poll was the more telling as South Carolina is such a vitally important state for any Republican candidate. The primary winner in the Palmetto State has always gone on to grab the GOP nomination.
The poll of GOP primary voters, gave Perry 36 percent with Romney taking just 16 percent. Bachmann stood at 13 percent, former Kansas City Federal Reserve chairman Herman Cain was at 9, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was at 8 and no-one else got more than 5 percent. Cain and Gingrich, who both hail from neighboring Georgia, fared better than they have in recent national polls.
“There might not be a state that betters symbolizes the fundamental shift that's occurred in the Republican presidential race over the last few months than South Carolina,” the polling company said in announcing the results.
“Voters on the far right side of the Republican spectrum have been dying for a candidate they can call their own and Perry is filling that void.
“With folks describing themselves as 'very conservative,' which is the largest segment of the GOP electorate in South Carolina, Perry's at 44 percent to 14 percent for Bachmann, with Romney mired in single digits at 9 percent.
Even among those calling themselves “somewhat conservative” Perry holds a 37-19 point lead over Romney. It’s only among self-identified “moderates” where Romney leads, by 26-20, but they make up only 16 percent of the overall Republican electorate.
In head-to-head races Perry’s dominance was even more noticeable. He beat Romney by 59-28 and overwhelmed Bachmann by 60-23, PPP said.
The national Quinnipiac poll was slightly kinder to Romney, but still found him trailing with Perry getting four votes for every three going to Romney.
The company included former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, even though she has not announced that she will run. She came in third with 11 percent followed by Bachmann on 10, Texas Rep. Ron Paul on 9 and the rest trailing on 5 percent or less.
"Gov. Perry has sprinted out of the gate,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
"Being the new kid on the block has benefitted 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. The next few months will be a race between Perry and his Republican and Democratic opponents to define him for the vast majority of the American people."
The only good news for Romney came when Quinnipiac asked voters about a head-to-head with Obama. He tied the president at 45 percent, but Obama would still prevail over other leading contenders, beating Perry 45-42, Bachmann 48-39 and Palin 51-37.
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