Why Rick Perry is downplaying his front-runner status
Polls give Rick Perry a solid lead over his Republican rivals for the presidential nomination just 2-1/2 weeks after entering the race. But a Sept. 7 debate looms as his first real test.
A wave of national polls has put Texas Gov. Rick Perry firmly in first place for the Republican presidential nomination, just 2-1/2 weeks since he entered the race.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Texas Gov. Rick Perry
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The latest poll, from CNN/ORC, puts Governor Perry in the lead among GOP voters with 27 percent. And if former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani don’t run, support for Perry leaps to 37 percent, followed by 18 percent for former Massachusetts Gov. (and former front-runner) Mitt Romney, 12 percent for Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, and single digits or less for everyone else.
So why is his campaign being so diffident about this burst of success? That’s easy. It’s early, and the battle has only begun.
Governor Perry will appear in his first presidential debate on Sept. 7 – his first big test before a televised national audience – with two more debates in quick succession. If he performs well, or at least competently, and passes the “does he look and act presidential” test, then his numbers could grow more solid. If he stumbles, all bets are off.
This early in a campaign, voters can be fickle. Many remain essentially undecided, even if they have stated a preference to a pollster. One need only look at the two parties’ front-runners at this point in the campaign four years ago to understand the Perry camp’s caution: Mr. Giuliani topped the Republican field and then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was the No. 1 Democrat.
Perry is also far from dominant in the two earliest nominating states, Iowa and New Hampshire. The two post-Perry-announcement polls out of Iowa show him on top of the field, but within the margin of error. In New Hampshire, Mr. Romney remains comfortably ahead. And even in national polls, Perry is well shy of a majority.
SOUND OFF on Facebook: What characteristic of Gov. Perry do you find most appealing?