Bachmann, Romney lead national poll

In a Sarah Palin-less primary field, Mitt Romney faces serious competition from Michele Bachmann on a national level, according to a poll released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling.

The poll found that 21 percent of likely Republican primary voters nationwide named Bachmann as their first choice, and 20 percent named Romney. Rick Perry gets 12 percent, followed by Herman Cain with 11 percent. Pawlenty and Huntsman bring up the rear with 5 percent and 3 percent respectively.

The margin of error of the poll is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points, so Bachmann’s one percentage point lead over Romney is not statistically significant.

If Palin gets into the race, Romney’s lead grows slightly safer. He leads the field with 20 percent of the vote, followed by Bachmann, whose share of the vote drops to 16 percent. Palin takes 12 percent followed by Perry with 11 percent and Cain with 10 percent. Pawlenty and Huntsman again come in behind at 5 percent and 2 percent respectively.

As a result of his performance in this poll, PPP will no longer include Pawlenty in state-level general election polls, meaning they will not poll him in a head-to-head match against Obama. PPP only does this type of polling for the top five candidates in its national poll. Perry will replace Pawlenty.

If the field whittles down to just Bachmann and Romney, Romney could be fighting for his life. Given a choice between the two candidates, 44 percent of likely Republican primary voters said they would vote for Bachmann while 41 percent said they would vote for Romney. (Bachmann surges in national poll, Perry makes strong debut)

Adding to his problems is the fact that 66 percent of Republican voters say they would be unwilling to vote for a candidate “who supported a law at the state level mandating that people have health insurance.” Romney’s high poll numbers suggest that voters are have not yet made the connection between his candidacy and the healthcare program he implemented as governor of Massachusetts.

Nationwide polling can be somewhat misleading. Pollster Chris Perkins pointed out to The Daily Caller last month that in the case of Rudy Giuliani in 2008, for instance, “even when it became absolutely physically impossible for him to win the Republican nomination, he was still winning in the [national] polls.”

What national polls do have an effect on, Perkins said, is “buzz.” Donors watch it in an attempt to throw their money behind a winning candidate, and candidates can use these polls to their advantage.