Romney and Perry Lead GOP Field on Eve of Republican Debate

Politics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 11, 2011   |   11:49AM   |   Washington, DC

As the Republican presidential candidates prepare for tonight’s third primary election debate, one candidate and one-yet-to-be-announced candidate lead among GOP voters considering a replacement for President Barack Obama.

A new poll conducted by ORC International for CNN finds Mitt Romney, who has been the frontrunner for months in the Republican presidential election and will participate in tonight’s debate, continuing his lead with the support of 17 percent of Republicans. Perry, the Texas governor who will not be in the debate, comes in second place with 15 percent of the GOP support.

The poll comes days before Perry is expected to announce on Saturday at a gathering of conservative political activists that he will soon file the paperwork necessary to officially seek the Republican presidential nomination.

The CNN survey may be limited in its view of the Republican race, because two potential candidates who appear unlikely to actually mount a president bid come in third and fourth place, respectively. New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who backs abortion, and pro-life former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin both receive the support of 12 percent of the GOP voters surveyed — along with pro-life Rep. Ron Paul, who is running.

Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota has the support of seven percent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich comes in at five percent, while former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and radio talk show host Herman Cain and former Utah governor and former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman as well as former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania each receive under five percent support. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and Rep. Thad McCotter of Michigan both register less than one percent.

CNN did ask a followup question with Palin and Giuliani excluded that provides a better preview of the race at hand. In that question, Romney still leads with the support of 23 percent of GOP voters compared with 18 percent for Perry and 14 percent for Paul. That question has Bachmann at 9 percent, Gingrich at 8, and the rest of the candidates at five percent or below.

The CNN survey has Romney and the pro-abortion president tied at 49 percent each in a hypothetical matchup while Obama appears to have a slight edge over Bachmann (51-45 percent) and Perry (51-46 percent) and a bigger lead over Palin at 55-41 percent.

Commenting on the survey, Ed Morrissey of the conservative Hot Air blog says the big takeaway is that Perry has replaced Bachmann as the top Romney alternative.

“Texas Governor Rick Perry will upend the Republican presidential primary with his entry this weekend, CNN’s latest national poll shows,” he says. “Perhaps most surprisingly, Michele Bachmann isn’t among them — and her support gets cut almost in half with Perry’s candidacy. Three weeks ago, Perry scored 14% but Giuliani, Palin, and Bachmann all scored 13% or 12%.  Now Bachmann has dropped to 7%, a fall of five points and the biggest decline in the field for the period.”

“If CNN’s series is not an outlier, Bachmann may need one as well, now that Perry has come closer to tossing his hat in the ring.  She has been wowing crowds in Iowa this week in advance of the debate and straw poll, so she is doing all she can on the ground, but that may not be enough — at least not this week,” Morrissey continued.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International on August 5-7, with 1,008 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey’s overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.