Poll: Perry would enter in 2nd place, but only Giuliani leads Obama

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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If Rick Perry enters the presidential race on Saturday as expected, a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation national poll released Thursday shows he will be Mitt Romney’s strongest Republican primary competitor.

But the poll also shows that the undeclared Rudy Giuliani is the only potential GOP nominee who would win a head-to-head race with Barack Obama if the presidential election were held today. Among registered voters, Giuliani has 51 percent to Obama’s 45 percent. Romney is virtually tied with Obama, trailing 49 percent to 48 percent in a one-on-one matchup.

Outside of head-to-head measurements, Romney leads a Republican field that includes non-candidates Giuliani and Sarah Palin, taking 17 percent of the vote from Republican voters. Perry polls a very close second, taking 15 percent of the vote. Giuliani, Palin, and Ron Paul tie with 12 percent, and Michele Bachmann is in single digits at 7 percent.

Without Palin or Giuliani in the race, Romney widens his lead to 23 percent of the vote, and Perry remains in second place with 18 percent. Paul gets 14 percent of the vote, followed by Bachmann with 9 percent.

The standings remain unchanged since the last CNN/ORC primary poll taken July 18–20, with one exception: Bachmann’s share of the vote has fallen by 5 percent, both with and without Palin and Giuliani in the mix.

President Obama’s popularity has also taken a hit since CNN/ORC last polled voters on these choices in early May. Then, Obama led Romney by 11 points, 54 percent to 43 percent.

Even Obama’s lead over Palin has tightened. Three months ago he clobbered her in a head-to-head measurement, 59 percent to 38 percent. That lead has shrunk somewhat, although he still maintains a strong 55–41 lead.

Neither Perry nor Bachmann would defeat Obama if the election were held today, and neither manages to hold the president to less than 50 percent of the vote. Perry gets 46 percent to Obama’s 51 percent among registered voters, and Bachmann trails Obama by a 45–51 margin.

Among independents, however, Obama’s Republican opponents fare much better. Perry ties Obama at 46 percent in that group, and Bachmann holds him to only a two percent lead, 47 percent to 45 percent. Both Romney and Giuliani trounce him, with Romney taking 53 percent of the independent vote to Obama’s 41 percent. Giuliani leads Obama by the same margin.

Only Palin leaves independents cold, attracting just 41 percent. But even she holds Obama to below 50 percent of independents’ support.

The poll is based on phone interviews with 1,008 adult Americans between August 5 and August 7. The margin of error for the total sample is plus or minus three percentage points. The sample of 930 registered voters has the same margin of error. The sample of 449 Republicans has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.