Since entering the Republican presidential primary in August, Rick Perry has led the pack in South Carolina -- according to Public Policy Polling’s most recent survey of the state, Perry led the entire field by at least twenty points.
Shortly after that poll was released, I spent some time in South Carolina, and found that -- among the rank-and-fle at least -- opinions weren’t as cut and dry. Admiration for Perry was widespread, but there was plenty of ambivalence about his ability to lead when compared to more established candidates like Mitt Romney or Michele Bachmann.
The most recent poll of South Carolina Republicans, conducted by Winthrop University, captures some of that hesitancy. According to Winthrop, Rick Perry takes 30.5 percent of the voters who will definitely participate in the presidential primary, while Mitt Romney pulls in 27.3 percent. Among all Republicans in the state, 35.4 percent chose Perry, while 29.4 percent chose Romney.
It’s hard to draw any broad conclusions from a single poll, but if this tells us anything, it’s that Perry is struggling with the perception that he isn’t electable. Above all else, Republicans want to beat Barack Obama, and will nominate the Republican most likely to achieve that feat. Perry’s Southern swagger and unambiguous conservatism are appealing, but if he can’t show his electability -- and at this point, it’s not looking good -- then he won’t succeed.