- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Unsatisfied Republicans who have flitted from Donald Trump to Herman Cain to Rep. Michele Bachmann this presidential-nomination season may have found their man in Rick Perry: The Texas governor, in the race less than two weeks, holds double-digit leads in two national polls released Wednesday.

Gallup reports Mr. Perry is the choice of 29 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 12 points ahead of Mitt Romney at 17 percent, Rep. Ron Paul at 13, and Mrs. Bachmann at 10.

Mr. Perry has an even bigger 13-point advantage in a Public Policy Polling survey released Wednesday. In that poll, Mr. Perry is the choice of 33 percent of GOP voters to Mr. Romney’s 20 percent and Mrs. Bachmann’s 16 percent.

“There have been a lot of flavors of the month in the Republican presidential race, and it’s possible that Rick Perry is just another of those,” said Dean Debnam, president of PPP. “But his support right now is stronger than Michele Bachmann or Herman Cain or Donald Trump or Mike Huckabee’s ever was, which suggests he should have more staying power.”

According to the North Carolina-based PPP, a polling firm historically aligned with Democrats, the other candidates in the GOP field - Mr. Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Mr. Paul of Texas - are all polling at 7 percent or less and have “settled into the background.”

Mr. Perry’s rise seems to have hurt Mrs. Bachmann the most, with the Minnesota congresswoman slipping 5 points over the past month - from first in the July PPP poll, with 21 percent, to third.

Gallup has her down 3 points from July.

Mr. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, held steady over the month in the PPP poll, but Gallup has him down 6 points.

Add undeclared potential candidate Sarah Palin to the field and Mr. Perry still comes out on top, according to both Gallup and PPP.

Both polls were conducted late last week, after almost a full week of campaign appearances in South Carolina, Iowa and New Hampshire by the blunt-spoken Texas governor - including an event in which he referred to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s qualitative-easing monetary policies as “almost treasonous.”

Many political pundits, including prominent Republicans, criticized the remark as inappropriate, but the Perry camp refused to apologize for the comments.

That hard-hitting style hasn’t hurt the Texan with the GOP rank-and-file, but there are questions about how the tough-talking Mr. Perry would fare in a general election showdown against President Obama.

A PPP survey of voters from both parties released Tuesday shows Mr. Romney running even with the president in a one-on-one matchup, 45 percent to 45 percent, while Mr. Perry runs six points back in a head-to-head with Mr. Obama, 49 percent to 43 percent.

“Rick Perry’s momentum in the Republican field is the best thing that’s happened to Barack Obama lately,” Mr. Debnam said. “The president would have an easier time winning re-election against him than Mitt Romney.”

Gallup, however, has Mr. Perry, a three-term governor running with a strong record of job creation in Texas, in a dead heat with Mr. Obama, 47 percent to 47 percent.

PPP also has Mr. Perry taking a commanding lead in Iowa over Mrs. Bachmann, who won the Ames Straw Poll there less than two weeks ago. According to PPP, Mr. Perry is the second choice for the majority of Mr. Romney and Mrs. Bachmann’s supporters, “suggesting he could unite the center-right and far-right voters that Romney and no other candidate have so far been able to do.”

• David Eldridge can be reached at deldridge@washingtontimes.com.

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