Latest poll: Is Rick Perry now a shoo-in?

A just-published Gallup poll shows Rick Perry as his party's front-runner. Mitt Romney trails in second, and Ron Paul has leapt passed Michele Bachmann, landing him in third.

Brett Flashnick/AP
Republican presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, recognizes a face in the crowd as he takes the stage to speak to members of the South Carolina GOP during a lunch in Columbia, S.C., on Aug. 19.

That was easy. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been in the Republican presidential race for only about a week and a half, and he’s already blowing the doors off his competitors.

A just-published Gallup poll shows Governor Perry as his party’s front-runner. He’s the choice of 29 percent of GOP voters, with ex-frontrunner Mitt Romney trailing in second, at 17 percent.

Perry’s numbers are even more impressive when you break them down. He leads Romney in every sub-category of Republican except those who say they are liberal or moderate Republicans. It’s an impressive showing. Is he now a shoo-in to win the nomination?

Nope. In politics, it’s not over until the weight-challenged lady sings, meaning there’s a lot of time yet for the race to scramble once again.

Perry’s numbers may reflect real strength. They may also reflect the fact that he is just the latest fresh face at the dance. Remember Donald Trump? There was a time there when some polls put him at the top of the GOP race, too. But that didn’t last.

Perry still rates as a relatively weak front-runner, compared to GOP front-runners of the past, notes Gallup. Typically, Republican nomination races produce a top person who’s ahead by 10 to 20 points in the early going.

Perry’s problem will be to avoid the fates of two other major late-entering candidates: Fred Thompson in the 2008 Republican race, and Wesley Clark in the 2004 Democratic race.

“Both created a buzz surrounding their potential candidacies, and ranked among the national leaders upon entering the race. However, both fared poorly in early primaries and caucuses and soon after ended their candidacies,” writes Gallup analyst Jeffrey Jones.

That said, there are other aspects of these new Gallup numbers we find intriguing.

First, Perry isn’t just the conservatives’ darling. The conventional wisdom upon his entry into the race was that the Texas governor would become the tea party-backed alternative to the more mainstream Romney. But this latest poll shows Romney has dropped six points since the last Gallup survey, in July. That means Perry appears to be attracting Romney voters.

Second, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann looks like she’s stalled, according to the Gallup data. She peaked at 13 percent in July and then fell back to 10 percent in August. So she’s losing support to Perry too.

Third, there’s Ron Paul, who finished third in the latest Gallup survey, with 13 percent. That’s up from his fourth-place finish in July. He’s the only other GOP candidate who gained in Gallup’s new survey – vaulting him ahead of Ms. Bachmann.

(OK, Rick Santorum was up a point, but he’s only got three percent of the vote, and that could just be a margin-of-error thing.)

Paul appears to be the young Republicans’ choice. He’s the leader among the 18-to-29 GOP demographic, taking 29 percent of that vote. He only gets 4 percent of the over-65 vote, however. That age inversion is kind of ironic – Paul, after all, is himself the oldest Republican running.

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