Poll: Perry leads Iowa Republicans, Bachmann "sinking"

Neither a late campaign start nor ignoring the Iowa GOP’s Ames straw poll has hurt Texas Governor Rick Perry’s standing among Iowa Republicans, according to a new survey by Public Policy Polling. Perry narrowly leads former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Representatives Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul among the regular GOP primary voters surveyed.

PPP’s Tom Jensen summarized the results here; the full polling memo is here. Automated calls sampled 317 “usual Iowa Republican primary voters” from August 19 through August 21, producing a margin of error of plus or minus 5.5 percent.  

The poll indicated that four top-tier candidates in Iowa are clustered close together: 22 percent of respondents would vote for Perry for president, 19 percent would support Romney, 18 percent would support Bachmann and 16 percent would support Paul. There’s a significant drop to the second tier of Herman Cain (7 percent), Newt Gingrich (5 percent), former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (5 percent) and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman (3 percent).

I don’t expect former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to join the race, but PPP asked respondents about their preferences if Palin were in the mix. Perry still leads with 21 percent, followed by Romney (18), Bachmann (15), Paul (12), Palin (10), Gingrich (7), Cain (6), Santorum (5) and Huntsman (3).

When Perry leaked plans to bigfoot the Ames straw poll, Iowa Republican blogger Craig Robinson howled:

Texas Governor Rick Perry’s decision to announce his candidacy in South Carolina at the same time the Iowa Straw Poll is taking place in Ames is not only a slap in the face to Republican voters in Iowa, but it also is disrespectful to the Iowa GOP and the other candidates seeking the nomination.

The move makes it obvious that Governor Perry either doesn’t understand the Iowa caucuses or doesn’t respect the role that Iowa plays in the nominating process.  […]  Perry now risks alienating the very people he needs to support him in order to win the nomination.  It also seems arrogant to think that he can steal the some of the spotlight from Ames.  […] Perry could have arranged his schedule to announce either before or after the Straw Poll. Iowans won’t forget this.

Perry is acting as if he is the 800-pound gorilla that is about to enter the race, but he’s not.  He has a great resume and looks the part, but the TIR poll conducted in late June showed him at only eight percent in Iowa. […] Perry has found a way make Iowa more difficult than it needs to be.

From where I’m sitting, it looks like an 800-pound gorilla saved money by ditching the straw poll, then hung out in Iowa for a couple of days, and voila! He’s the new front-runner. It probably helped that for two weeks a super-PAC ran this television commercial introducing Perry to Iowans as a proven conservative leader who created jobs and balanced budgets with no state income tax.

Jensen sees the numbers as “very bad news for Michele Bachmann, and to a lesser extent Romney”:

It’s clear that Bachmann has gotten virtually no momentum out of her victory in the Ames Straw Poll. She was in 3rd place when we polled Iowa in June and she’s in third place now. Beyond that her favorability numbers in the state have taken a significant hit. In June she had a 53/16 breakdown. Since then her positive number has dropped 6 points from 53% to 47%, and her negative number has climbed 19 points from 16% to 35%. Perry’s now winning the voters on the far right that we showed her doing really well with throughout most of June and July. The day of her win in Ames may be remembered as the peak of her campaign.

In some sense the news is worse for Romney- he’s actually losing support- going from 26% and the lead in June to 19% and second place now. There had been some thought that he might absorb Tim Pawlenty’s support in the state and clearly that has not happened. But Romney probably doesn’t need Iowa with New Hampshire serving as his firewall so these numbers still don’t seem as bad for him as they do for Bachmann.

This poll supports Bleeding Heartland user ragbrai08’s prediction that Perry’s entry would make life difficult for Bachmann in Iowa. Bachmann co-founded the House Tea Party caucus, but Perry leads her even among respondents who identify with the tea party, as well as among those who don’t believe in global warming or evolution.

The bright side for Bachmann is that she’s still within the margin of error of the leaders despite a summer of media hatchet jobs (“crazy eyes,” migraines) and loud Republican worrying that President Barack Obama would easily defeat her. Perry hasn’t faced any real scrutiny yet, just glowing reports about the so-called jobs miracle in Texas. He’s a savior for establishment Republicans who fear that all the previously declared candidates would lose to Obama. The GOP rank and file hasn’t heard anything bad about him. Governor Terry Branstad is about as glowing as he can be toward Perry without breaking his pledge to remain neutral in the presidential race.

Although Romney lost support since PPP last surveyed Iowa Republicans in June, I believe these numbers validate his decision to blow off Iowa. After avoiding the state most of the summer, running no radio or television commercials and not competing in the Ames straw poll, Romney is still in second place, within the margin of error of Perry. He leads all other contenders among Iowa GOP primary voters who don’t identify with the tea party movement and who do believe in evolution and global warming. He placed seventh in the Ames straw poll while Bachmann and Paul each racked up nine times as many votes. But that doesn’t seem to have eroded his support much in the rank and file. Romney’s net favorability in this poll is lower than that of most other candidates, but he has more supporters planning to vote for him than do many candidates whom respondents view more favorably. In any event, Jensen writes, “No one is sinking faster than Bachmann” in terms of net favorability.

Any comments about the Republican presidential campaign are welcome in this thread.

  • Off topic from quake-devastated East Coast

    But thought Bleeding Heartland readers would enjoy a couple of the humorous earthquake tweets:

    @TheTweetOfGod: There was just a 5.8 earthquake in Washington. Obama wanted it to be 3.4, but the Republicans wanted 5.8, so he compromised.

    @politicoroger: “We wouldn’t be having earthquakes like this if Hillary were president.”

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