Texas Governor Rick Perry is still the front-runner in the Republican presidential contest, but according to the latest Public Policy Polling survey, his standing has slipped in head-to-head matchups with President Obama.
As of this week, Obama’s lead over Perry has grown from 6 points in the August national survey to the current spread of 52–41 -- an 11-point difference. And while you can attribute some of this to Obama’s stronger standing with Democratic voters -- a result of his pitch for the American Jobs Act -- the size of the shift points to Perry’s worsening standing with swing voters as a result of his attacks on Social Security.
Of the Republican presidential hopefuls, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is the only candidate to bring Obama below the 50 percent threshold. Even then, he trails the president, 45–49. For Obama, this is a nice improvement over his August performance, when Romney tied him with 45 percent of the vote. As for the rest of the field, Obama leads Newt Gingrich by 12 points, and Michele Bachmann by 14.
At this point -- more than a year before the presidential election -- these polls don’t tell us much about the race. But they can give us a sense of voter impressions, and for Republicans, the news is grim. PPP surveyed voters after a night when GOP candidates strove to appeal to the Republican base, and the result was immediate hostility to their presidential ambitions. The GOP base is bad for public relations, a dangerous problem in a contest where the leading candidate is an avatar for the right-wing zeitgeist. If I were the White House, I’d focus my attention on advertising that as much as possible to the general public.