Bloomberg News

Perry Leads Romney in Florida Poll That Spotlights Two-Man Race

September 22, 2011

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Sept. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Rick Perry leads Mitt Romney among Florida Republicans and they each hold double-digit advantages over the party’s other presidential contenders, according to a Quinnipiac University poll highlighting the two-man rivalry defining the race.

Perry, the Texas governor, has support from 28 percent of Florida Republicans in the survey, compared with 22 percent for Romney, the former Massachusetts governor.

The poll’s release today comes as Perry, Romney and the other candidates prepare to meet for their third debate this month. Tonight’s faceoff in Orlando, Florida, is likely to feature spirited exchanges between the two as Perry seeks to keep his frontrunner status and Romney vies for momentum.

Perry’s popularity in Florida -- a state that could prove pivotal next year in both the nomination and general election contests -- has surged over the last month since he entered the race, the new survey showed, while Romney’s backing has stagnated.

Perry’s margin of support has more than doubled since a Quinnipiac poll released Aug. 4, in which 13 percent of Florida Republicans backed him. He declared his candidacy on Aug. 13.

Romney drew support from 23 percent in last month’s poll, about the same as in the current survey.

The poll shows Perry with “the lead -- and the momentum -- among Florida Republicans,” Peter A. Brown, the assistant director of the Hamden, Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement.

Obama Matchups

The results have a positive for Romney: a stronger showing against President Barack Obama than Perry. In a general election matchup in Florida, Romney is backed by 47 percent of the state’s registered voters to 40 percent for Obama, according to the poll. Obama runs slightly ahead of Perry, 44 percent to 42 percent.

The finding “reinforces Perry’s need to improve his standing with independent voters,” Brown said.

The telephone survey of 1,007 registered voters was conducted Sept. 14-19 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for its entire sample. The error margin for its 374 Republican respondents was plus or minus 5.1 percent.

Other Candidates

The poll showed none of the other Republican contenders reaching double-digit levels of support. Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and the party’s 2008 vice presidential nominee who is publicly flirting with a run, drew support from 8 percent of Republicans. Businessman Herman Cain and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia were next with 7 percent. Representative Ron Paul of Texas had 6 percent, followed by Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota with 5 percent.

Were Palin to decide not to run, Perry’s support would grow to 31 percent while Romney would stay at 22 percent. Also, Florida Republicans favored Perry in a hypothetical two-man race with Romney, 46 percent to 38 percent.

The survey suggests that Perry’s much-discussed comparison of Social Security to a “Ponzi scheme” -- seized on by his Republican opponents to argue he is unelectable -- may not hurt him in the nomination race but could present him with a challenge in the general election in Florida, the state with the nation’s highest concentration of senior citizens.

While 52 percent of Republicans said it was fair to characterize the program that way, 58 percent of all registered voters said the description was unfair.

--Editors: Don Frederick, Jim Rubin.

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Hirschfeld Davis in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at

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