Debate fires spread: Romney leads Perry in Florida after debate

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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Following a debate performance that many dubbed disastrous, Rick Perry has ceded the position of frontrunner in Florida to Mitt Romney, according to a Public Policy Polling poll released Wednesday.

The poll found that 30 percent of Florida Republican primary voters would vote for Mitt Romney, while 24 percent would vote for Rick Perry. Newt Gingrich, the only other candidate to break double digits, is in third with 10 percent. Michele Bachmann has fallen to 6th place, with 6 percent, behind Ron Paul and Herman Cain, who recently won the Florida Five strawpoll.

If the race boiled down to just Romney and Perry, Romney beats out the Lone Star governor 45 percent to 36 percent, though a full 19 percent of Republican voters remain unsure. (RELATED: Romney has healthy lead in Iowa)

Perry’s troubles seem to stem in large part from his poor debate performance. Among respondents who PPP polled Thursday night, prior to the debate, 63 percent said they had a favorable view of Perry, and just 23 percent cited an unfavorable view. But of those polled Friday, just 49 percent said they held a favorable opinion of him, while 35 percent said they had an unfavorable view. Those numbers dropped a couple percentage points to Perry’s disadvantage for those polled Saturday and Sunday.

It’s worth noting that Romney also saw a slight tick down in favorability following the debate. On Thursday, 68 percent cited a favorable opinion of him, but on Friday, that number dropped to 63 percent, and again to 61 percent among those polled Saturday and Sunday. However, that seems to have had little effect on his competition with Perry.

The drop is even more dramatic when voters were given a sample ballot: On Thursday night, 31 percent of voters aid they would vote for Perry, while 33 percent said they would vote for Romney, but on Friday, just 15 percent said they would vote for Perry, while Romney’s share of the vote remained unchanged. Among those surveyed Saturday and Sunday, however, Perry rebounded to 24 percent, while just 23 percent chose Mitt Romney.

Romney’s lead over Perry also widened if the contest for the nomination were boiled down to just the two of them. On Thursday night, Perry narrowly led Romney 43 percent to 41 percent. On Friday, Romney led Perry 56 percent to 30 percent.

A Quinnipiac poll released last week before the debate had Perry leading Romney in Florida 31 percent to 22 percent among registered Republicans, in a field without Sarah Palin. In a head-to-head match up, Perry led Romney 46 percent to 38 percent.

The PPP poll was based on robo-call telephone interviews with 472 usual Florida Republican primary voters, from September 22 through September 25. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

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