Whether itâ€™s in a crowded field or one-on-one, Rick Perry is the man to beat in the partyâ€™s race for the White House, a new poll shows.
The Texas governor leads rival Mitt Romney by 9 percentage points in the crowded race for president, according to the survey from Quinnipiac University that also found Perry would best Romney if Sarah Palin hopped in the race or if the contest was a simple head-to-head matchup. The other seven candidates poll in the single digits.
The poll also suggests Romney wonâ€™t get much political mileage out of attacking Perry for calling Social Security a “Ponzi scheme.” More than half of Republicans â€” the only ones who can vote in the upcoming winter primary â€” say itâ€™s “fair” to describe the entitlement program that way.
Perryâ€™s comments, though, could prove more problematic in a general-election race, with 58 percent of all voters saying the comment comparing Social Security to a criminal-funding swindle is “unfair.” Also, voters in Florida â€” where more than half of the electorate is older than 60 â€” arenâ€™t sure if he wants to end or fix Social Security, which they donâ€™t want changed.
Romneyâ€™s relative weakness in the eyes of Republican voters â€” that is, his perceived moderation â€” would be a strength in a matchup against President Obama, whom the former Massachusetts governorÂ bests by a 47-40 percent spread thanks to the support of independent voters.
Perry is statistically tied with Obama, who earned his lowest job approval rating ever in a Quinnipiac poll. Only 39 percent approve of the way Obamaâ€™s doing his job, while 57 percent disapprove. More than half of voters say Obama does not deserve a second term. Only 41 percent say he should be re-elected.
â€œGov. Rick Perry has the lead â€” and the momentum â€” among Florida Republicans, while former Gov. Mitt Romney can point to a better general election showing,â€ Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a written statement.
Quinnipiacâ€™s polls of the Florida race show a tale of two candidates when it comes to Romney and Perry.
Romneyâ€™s numbers have remained stagnant since August. Meanwhile, Perry has surged 18 percentage points to his current 31 percent without Palin in the race.
The new Quinnipiac survey was released in anticipation of Thursday nightâ€™s debate that kicks off the Republican Party of Floridaâ€™s Presidency 5 event, which ends Saturday with a straw poll.
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