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Gallup: Perry surges to lead the GOP pack

A new Gallup poll has Rick Perry, Republican governor of Texas, comfortably in the lead over other GOP candidates for president.

Shortly after announcing his official candidacy, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has emerged as rank-and-file Republicans’ current favorite for their party’s 2012 presidential nomination. Twenty-nine percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents nationwide say they are most likely to support Perry, with Mitt Romney next, at 17%.

29% to 17% is a significant lead.  Ron Paul comes in 3rd at 13% and Michelle Bachman at 10%.  The rest of the field is in single digits, all under 5%.  “No preference” is at 17% but that’s dropped a point from July’s poll and 8 points since last May’s poll.  So Republican voters are beginning to make up their minds, even at this early date.

Nate Silver of Five Thirty Eight offers the following analysis of Perry’s new numbers:

First, with these shiny new numbers will come higher expectations for Mr. Perry, particularly during the three Republican debates that will be held in September.

Second, Mr. Romney should have a fair amount of breathing room since the Republican field is heavily tilted toward very conservative candidates like Mr. Perry. Were Rudolph W. Giuliani or Chris Christie to enter the race, Mr. Romney might face a bit more pressure, as he would if Jon M. Huntsman Jr. were somehow to surge. Still, the conservative part of the Republican field is far more crowded, and will be even more so if Sarah Palin runs.

Third, Republican elites have not given Mr. Perry a warm welcome. Of course, the same can be said for Mr. Romney; that Republicans have been casting about for a candidate like Paul Ryan or Mr. Christie reflects poorly on him as well as Mr. Perry. But as Barack Obama looks more and more vulnerable, Republicans may begin to prioritize electability over ideological purity.

Finally, although national polls at this stage have a fair amount of predictive power, they are hardly foolproof. At this point in 2007, Rudy Giuliani had about 29 percent of the Republican vote, about where Mr. Perry is now.

So, as Silver points out, Perry’s entrance means “higher expectations” from the voters – he’s got to start articulating a platform and begin to put forward a vision.  It’s not going to be enough to be the “anti-Obama”.  Everyone in the field is that.   While Perry’s numbers are strong, as Silver notes, so were Rudy Giuliani in 2007 and he faded like a knackered race horse.

While feelings are certainly high against Mr. Obama on the right, voters are looking for some positive idea of how the economic crisis that has befallen the country will be handled and remedied.  This is truly an “it’s the economy, stupid” election.   Any side issues that can be used as a wedge should be avoided as the voters that must be won aren’t at all concerned about them at this time.  But they may see such a focus as a negative.

Americans want to get the economic ball rolling again.  Rick Perry has a success story to tell.   He should concentrate on telling it and not allow himself to get sidetracked.  Meanwhile, you can expect the left to concentrate on everything but the economy.  

Focus and a positive message are the keys to a win in this election.  Any wandering off on tangents will make winning less likely.   The election, as far as I see it from this 15 month distance is the GOP’s to lose.  Unfortunately, they’re quite capable of doing exactly that.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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