Republican Mitt Romney easily leads rival Michele Bachmann in a head-to-head matchup of the two top declared candidates for the party's 2012 presidential nomination, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Wednesday.
Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, has a 40 percent to 23 percent lead over Bachmann among Republicans and independents. Among independents only, Romney's lead was 10 percentage points.
Romney has been a fragile front-runner in the Republican race to find a challenger to President Barack Obama in 2012. He leads in national polls and fund-raising, but many Republicans have been left cold by the party's candidates and urged others to jump in the race.
Bachmann, a U.S. representative from Minnesota and an outspoken social conservative, has made an early campaign splash with heavy backing from Tea Party fiscal conservatives, but her ability to broaden her support will be critical.
The poll showed nearly half of the independents surveyed, 49 percent, were undecided. Romney led among independents by 27 percent to 17 percent.
"Bachmann is getting some support from independents, which is good news for her," said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark.
Some polls show Bachmann leading in Iowa, which kicks off the nominating battle and has an influential base of social and religious conservatives. Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who was popular with the conservative base, won Iowa in 2008 but could not duplicate that success elsewhere.
The poll of 1,173 adults, including 989 registered voters, was taken Friday through Monday and had an overall margin of error of 3 percentage points.
It surveyed 444 Republicans, with a margin of error of 4.7 percentage points, and 221 independents, with a margin of error of 6.6 percentage points.
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