Perry dominates, problems for Romney in new Daily Caller/ConservativeHome Tracking Poll

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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Newly declared presidential candidate Rick Perry is now the undisputed GOP frontrunner, while Michele Bachmann’s star has started to fall, according to the latest Daily Caller/ConservativeHome national presidential primary tracking poll.

Perry now leads the field in all five categories polled this month: first choice, most electable, second choice, best at dealing with the economy, and best at keeping Washington spending under control — often by a large margin.

Perry is the top choice for 29.3 percent of Republicans, handily trouncing Michele Bachmann’s 17.0 percent and Mitt Romney’s 11.1 percent.

But Perry has not just captured the hearts of Republicans; he has also captured the minds of those who are pragmatically looking not just for a nominee they like, but for one who can beat President Barack Obama. He is also considered far and away the most electable, with 46.5 percent naming him the most viable candidate to beat the incumbent president. Romney takes just 19.8 percent of the vote in this category, a sharp drop from July, when he led in this category with 33.5 percent. Michele Bachmann’s share has dropped to just 9.6 percent, falling precipitously from 21.1 percent in July.

That’s particularly problematic for Romney. In the past, his appeal has resided in the fact that he has seemed like the Republican candidate most able to win a general election. He is seen as moderate enough to appeal to independents, and also someone with the business experience to match up favorably against the president in the troubled economic climate. But Perry has ousted him in both categories. Not only is he perceived as electable, but his record of job creation as governor of Texas appears to trump Romney’s business experience.

Voter perception of Perry’s electability isn’t necessarily off the mark. A Gallup poll released Monday found that Perry would tie Obama in a head-to-head match up among registered voters, with each taking 47 percent of the vote. Public Policy Polling found slightly different results: In its poll, released Tuesday, Obama bests Perry 49 to 43 percent.

With that said, Romney currently looks far more electable in a general election than for which respondents to our tracking poll give him credit. PPP found Obama and Romney tied with 45 percent of the vote, while Gallup found Romney leading the president 48 to 46 percent.

Asked who would do the best job with the economy, Perry is the leader with 27.1 percent of the vote, while Romney is a distant second with 14.5 percent. Paul Ryan (who was pondering a run during the survey, and then very inconveniently announced Monday that he would not run) gets 12.4 percent. For now, at least, Perry’s record of job creation seems to be a greater selling point than Romney’s business credentials.

In terms of which candidate voters think would do the best job controlling Washington spending, the contrast between Perry and Romney is even starker with 20.3 percent indicating Perry would be the best at this, while just 7.6 percent name Romney. Ryan was second with 17.4 percent, suggesting that there could still be a place for a practical, budget-minded wonk in the mold of him or Mitch Daniels in the race, followed by Bachmann with 16.8 percent and Paul with 13.5 percent.

That’s not a particularly big change from last month either for Romney or Perry, but for Bachmann, it marks a big slide. Before Perry’s entry into the race, she was the clear favorite in this category, outpolling the second place Perry by more than 10 percent in July. Now, her share of the vote has dropped 12 percentage points from 28.7 percent.

It’s worth noting that the demographics in this polling sample are different from what other polling outfits use. The group polled (the sample size reflects how many people in that group actually respond) over-represents politically engaged Republicans who have donated money to campaigns or volunteered for campaigns.

Other polls generally sample likely Republican primary voters.

The survey was e-mailed to 2,500 participants nationwide 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 a sample of 726 respondents surveyed from August 18 to August 21.