Perry, Bachmann lead in July Daily Caller/ConservativeHome Tracking Poll

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and the as-yet-undeclared Texas Gov. Rick Perry have unseated Mitt Romney as the front-runners in the latest Daily Caller/ConservativeHome Tracking Poll.

This time the survey asked five questions: Who is your top pick for president? Who is the most electable? Who is your second choice? Who would do the best job handling the economy? And who would do the best job reducing spending in Washington?

Having finally conceded that Chris Christie and Paul Ryan are actually serious when they say they’re not going to run, we removed them from the ballot. We added Rudy Giuliani, who looks to be heading in the opposite direction.

Perry and Bachmann have set a new bar for the poll, garnering support in the range of 25 percent in the categories of electability and top pick.

This suggests that more Republican voters are becoming engaged in the race as they find candidates who actually excite them, as opposed to voting for the best option in a fairly unexciting field.

It’s indicative that while a large margin has consistently considered Romney to be the most electable candidate (a pragmatic metric), he has never particularly caught fire as voters’ top pick (a more idealistic metric). (Pawlenty declines to sign Family Leader marriage pledge, promotes faith in video)

That trend continues in this round of the tracking poll.

Romney was judged the most electable by 33.5 percent, but just 12.4 percent called him their top pick for the nomination. Perry, on the other hand, does well in both categories: He’s well-liked as a candidate, with 25.4 percent naming him as their top pick, and voters also see him as electable — with 28.5 percent calling him the most electable.

That combination would seem to bode well for Perry, should he decide to enter the race. Voters would get someone they see as capable of taking on President Obama, but for whom they wouldn’t have to compromise on their principles.

Bachmann also saw a huge gain in the Tracking Poll, as she has in most other polls released in the past two weeks. She is the top pick of 25.8 percent of those polled, while 21.1 percent called her the most electable.

She also seems to have firmly cemented herself as the Romney or Perry alternative, with 29.4 percent calling her their second choice.

Bachmann’s rise has to do with the very good show she has put on since formally launching her campaign last month. She has, to some degree, demonstrated that she can be a serious, credible candidate, and not just a sensationalist who generates buzz.

Perry, on the other hand, would enter the race with a cache of existing credibility. (Bachmann surges in national poll, Perry makes strong debut)

It’s worth noting that Rick Perry has been on the ballot since the very beginning, rating one to two percent of the vote each time around. His sudden, meteoric rise in the polls is notable because he has done nothing concrete to change voters’ opinions other than indicating that he was seriously considering a run.

This underscores what Mike Murphy has insisted to the Daily Caller on several occasions. At this point, he said, polls are as much an “applause meter/noise meter” as they are real indications of voter preferences. All of a sudden Perry is attracting serious media attention and generating significant hype among Republicans, as everyone waits to see whether or not he’ll jump into the race. Correspondingly, his poll numbers have skyrocketed.

Perry and Bachmann are also both perceived to have strong economic credentials. They lead the pack as the candidates who would do the best job with the economy and keep Washington spending under control.

Twenty-four percent of respondents said Perry would do the best at dealing with the economy, while 18.5 percent chose Bachmann, 16.7 named Romney, and 16.0 percent went with Herman Cain.

On reducing spending, Bachmann leads with 28.7 percent saying she would do the best job. Perry trails her at 17.2 percent, followed by Cain at 14 percent. In this category, Romney falls to 8.5 percent, trailing Ron Paul and Sarah Palin, a fact which illustrates that voters see reducing spending and doing a good job with the economy as two very distinct issues.

The big loser in this poll is Cain. Though he continues to be in the top few in a number of categories, his numbers have fallen significantly since the last tracking poll was conducted. In June, 16.1 percent of respondents called him their top pick; this month, just 9.6 percent said that. The perception of his electability has taken an even bigger hit: 12.1 percent called him the most electable in June, while this month just 4.4 percent said he was the most electable.

Tim Pawlenty, who is seen as the candidate who is the most threatened by Bachmann and Perry — with Perry ousting him as the logical Romney alternative, and Bachmann outshining him in the crucial state of Iowa — has a generally mediocre performance in the poll. Originally touted as the candidate who could win by being ‘everybody’s second choice,’ Pawlenty does perform fairly well in that category: He is the second choice of 7.9 percent, putting him just above Palin, but below Bachmann, Perry,Cain, and Romney.

Pawlenty gets no more than 2.4 percent of the vote in any other category on the survey, though that doesn’t seem to be directly correlated with Perry and Bachmann’s rise. He’s within two percent of his performance in earlier polls, however, so this is not a significant change.

The survey was e-mailed to 2,500 participants who identify as conservative Republicans and are considered likely primary voters. The majority of the panel is politically active, with 70 percent having contributed money to a campaign or worked on a campaign. Thirty-five percent of the members on the panel self-identify as part of the Tea Party, while 58 percent say they sympathize with the movement.

The results are based on the 667 members of the panel who responded to the survey when it was fielded between July 8 and July 13, 2011. See the full results below.