Initial Rick Perry Boomlet Fading, Opening An Opportunity For Romney

Rick Perry has faltered, and that has given Mitt Romney an opening.

In the immediate aftermath of his entry into the Presidential race, Rick Perry seemed unstoppable. Almost immediately, his poll numbers skyrocketed him right into the lead, knocking Mitt Romney out of the comfortable place he’d been in all year and leaving other Tea Party backed candidates like Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain in the dust. Then the debates happened. In the first debate, Perry was called to the carpet for his past comments on Social Security and came away bruised. In the second debate, co-sponsored by Tea Party groups, the Social Security issue came up, but so did Perry’s past positions on immigration and his controversial decision to mandate the HPV vaccine for 6th grade girls in Texas schools. The result, as Nate Silver notes today, is that public opinion of Rick Perry is turning more negative:

Three polling firms asked voters for their views of Mr. Perry between the announcement of his candidacy and that first debate. In those surveys, views on Mr. Perry were equally divided. An average of 29 percent of Americans said they had a positive view of him and 29 percent a negative view, with the remaining 42 percent not yet knowing him sufficiently well or not yet having formulated a firm opinion.Mr. Perry’s numbers have been in net-negative territory in four polls released since the first debate, however. On average, 27 percent of respondents held a positive view of Mr. Perry in these polls, while 38 percent held a negative one.

Although few of these pollsters provided a partisan breakdown of their results, Mr. Perry’s numbers do not appear to have declined appreciably among Republicans. So one can infer that the movement has probably been caused by independent voters and Democrats.

The trend of the past few weeks may or may not be indicative of their future trajectory. Nevertheless, of voters who have formed an opinion of Mr. Perry so far, almost 60 percent in post-debate polling hold a negative view.

Although Perry continues to lead in the polls, his lead is slowly narrowing as more post debate polls come out, as you can see quite dramatically here:

Not surprisingly, the only candidate who seems to be benefiting from Perry’s weakening is Mitt Romney. You’re not seeing any appreciable up-ticks in support for any of the second tier candidates, which suggests that voters are already starting to narrow the race down in their minds to one between Perry and Romney, with the rest of the field mostly a bunch of also-rans.

As Silver notes, we’re also seeing a widening of President Obama’s lead over Perry in head-to-head match-ups:

Surveys released between the announcement of his campaign and the first debate had Mr. Perry trailing Mr. Obama 43 percent to 46 percent on average, with a couple of the polls actually giving him a slight lead.

Mr. Perry has trailed Mr. Obama by an average of 42 percent to 49 percent in surveys released since the debate, however.

Polls of horse-race match-ups can often underestimate the standing of candidates with poor or middling name recognition — one of a number of reasons that the White House shouldn’t feel terribly excited about these numbers.

Still, that Mr. Perry’s numbers have gotten worse as he has become better known — and as Mr. Obama’s approval ratings have been low and steady at best — is a poor sign for his campaign.

Moreover, these name-recognition effects usually manifest themselves in lower support for the challenger rather than higher support for the incumbent (voters may say they are undecided if they are not yet sufficiently familiar with a candidate, even if they are likely to support him eventually). But in four of the seven head-to-head polls released since the first debate, Mr. Obama has gotten 50 percent of the vote or more in the hypothetical match-up against Mr. Perry, meaning that the effects cannot be accounted for by undecided voters alone.

The Romney campaign is noticing numbers like this, and is focusing much of the attacks on Perry on the issue of electability. For example, in a Florida campaign stop yesterday, Romney spoke to a group of elderly voters and the topic was, of course, Social Security:

MIAMI, Fla. – Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney took his attacks on Rick Perry to America’s retirement state on Wednesday, drawing comparisons between himself and Ronald Reagan and saying both he and the iconic late president believed in the Social Security program while Perry deems it a failure.

He also took his main rival for the Republican nomination to task for his tendency recently to “wear religion on (his) sleeve.” In recent days, the Texas governor had described in highly personal terms his transformation into a Christian during his 20s.

In a state where more than one in five residents is on Social Security, Romney hit Perry hardest on the issue of preserving the federally run retirement savings program. “I think by the measure of the tens of millions of people that rely on Social Security, it’s a success,” Romney said at a Town Hall-style meeting that attracted about 70 people. “Ronald Reagan believed in Social Security. I believe in Social Security.”

For his part, Perry is eschewing appeals to electability in favor of courting the conservative base by appearing on Fox News and calling Romney “Obama-Lite.”  This appeal to the base may seem like the smart thing to do given the current state of the GOP, but it seems to be hurting Perry among independent voters. A new Gallup poll shows that Romney seems to be doing a better job attracting those voters than either Perry, or even the President.

In some sense, it was inevitable that Perry would fall back from the initial peaks that he hit when he immediately entered the race. To a large degree, that bounce was driven by hype and excitement rather than familiarity with the candidates. Once voters got to know him better, it’s inevitable that his numbers would fall back somewhat. What’s of more concern, I think, are the numbers that Silver points out. As voters are getting to know Perry better, they seem to be disliking him more. That might not hurt him much in Republican primaries, but it could become a big problem in a General Election race. Which is why the Romney campaign is emphasizing electability right now. We’ve got another debate tonight in Florida, and you can expect all of this, and especially issues like Social Security to come up again. Another lackluster debate performance by Perry could present problems for him down the line.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Religion, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Sam says:

    Looking at the DOW I suspect President Downgrade ObamAA+ is scheduled to speak today?

  2. @Sam:

    As with much of the stock market movement for the past month, today’s events have more to do with Europe and the White House.

  3. Eric Florack says:

    Wishful thinking, Doug. The GOP establishment and the left would like nothing better than a Romney nomination. The latter of the two knows a Romney nomination would be by far easier to beat. That’s why the “mainstream” press badgered Perry, at the debates and elsewhere, as has been noted on this blog and several others. The former hasn’t a clue. The electorate wants Conservatism. Perry qualifies. Romney doesn’t. Remember, gang, the crowd that wants Romney wanted McCain, as well. Remember how that worked out?

  4. Sam says:

    @Doug Mataconis: @Eric Florack:

    I think the electorate Eric wants ABO!

    I STILL hope that a moderate Dem steps up to the plate for a primary run. IF they could withstand the charge of being a racist for even THINKING of challenging him.

  5. @Eric Florack:

    Romney has a far better chance of beating Obama than Perry IMO. I’m no Romney fan but I hope for their own sake that Republicans prepare themselves for the possibility of an Obama re-election in 14 months

  6. Sam says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    You don’t think Solyndra, Fast and Furious, LightSquared investigations will come into play in the next 6 or 7 months?

  7. MBunge says:

    An enormous amount of time and energy was spent getting GOP power players lined up behind George W. Bush in 1999 and, as hard as it may be to believe, Bush the Younger spent a significant amount of time preparing himself for that campaign. Neither of those things are true this time around with Perry. The big question now is if the party establishment settles on Romney as the guy, can they prevent Rush and company from doing to Romney what they did to McCain in 2000?

    Frankly, Perry has given me a whole new appreciation of Romney. The Mittster may be an obviously craven phony, but at least I don’t think he’d do something bizarre as President like declare war on Egypt or something.


  8. MBunge says:

    @Sam: “You don’t think Solyndra, Fast and Furious, LightSquared investigations will come into play in the next 6 or 7 months?”

    Not nearly as much as Perry’s contempt for Social Security. There’s also that whole “possibly letting an innocent man be executed” thing.


  9. @Sam:

    Not to an extent likely to influence the election. This election will be about the economy and the ability of the GOP to convince independents that it has learned from the Bush disaster

  10. Sam says:


    I don’t think the SS issue will ever have legs. Until someone can prove proof positive that any SS of MC plan effects EXISTING recipients which none of the plans do.
    The death penalty is a dead issue.

    It is quite surprising that the last poll I saw had Palin just 5 point under Obama nad she has not spent ANY campaign funds! Well, Obama hasn’t either since his campaign is being paid for by the taxpayers to date.

    (not that I think Palin has a good chance)

  11. Sam says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I think Solyndra IS an economic player since his “green jobs” hopes are not yet dashed.

    Fast and Furious WILL definitely be a player when the facts are in and a Special Prosecutor is named. And the timing will be right during the height of the campaign.

  12. Modulo Myself says:


    The big GOP types were people from the Bush I administration, and for their trouble, they were basically told to f— of by Cheney and co. Bush II not only busted the bank on a failing economy, but they also cashed in every actual thought a Republican might have, in order to get whatever it was that Bush II thought they were due. They’re aren’t any real players left. Someone creepy and insecure like Koch A or Koch B may throw money around and laud himself for being a free-market man, but he’s no George Schultz or James Baker. Basically now it’s holistic politics and recitations of a paper one might have read a paragraph of in 1993.

    If Romney wins, his smart move would be to keep most of Obama’s staff, with whom he will be as comfortable as the President himself, thereby offering moronic appeal to independents who voted for Obama, while occasionally having a terrorist executed on television for the country white folks, all while turning the IRS loose on every right-wing think-tank and foundation.

  13. @Sam:

    Don’t count your electoral chickens before they’re hatched.

  14. Sam says:

    Oh sh*t! When he loses these votes…….

    “New cracks have begun to show in President Obama’s support amongst African Americans, who have been his strongest supporters. Five months ago, 83 percent of African Americans held “strongly favorable” views of Obama, but in a new Washington Post-ABC news poll that number has dropped to 58 percent. That drop is similar to slipping support for Obama among all groups.”

  15. Sam says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    See the WP-ABC poll.
    Any decent moderate Democrat would win over Obama in a landslide!

  16. ponce says:

    Look for “conservative” Republicans to claim Romney is one of them in 3..2..

  17. James in LA says:

    @Sam: Sam your attempts to divide democrats will fail. Dems see other dems — including Obama — as still wanting to help people. There is nothing even remotely close to a whiff of the tea party on the left.

    Please tell us what comes after Grover Norquists drowning of gub’ment in the bathtub? Hint: sounds like theocratic oligarchy.

    So please! Do keep up the No There, There scandal arguments and fictitious polls taken more than a year out. It takes precious time away from your forming the plan to actually win a national election, and that it fine by me.

  18. ponce says:

    Please tell us what comes after Grover Norquists drowning of gub’ment in the bathtub? Hint: sounds like theocratic oligarchy.

    The American Right already has a place where all their nutty beliefs about government were implemented: Afghanistan.

  19. Sam says:

    @James in LA:

    Oh PLEEEEEEASE! MY attempt? What a snort!

    There is far more desire out there for an opponent than apparently you care to admit to yourself.

    See the above poll on black support!

    FICTITIOUS? It was done by ABC and the Washington Post, those two far right Teabag outfits!

  20. Sam says:

    @James in LA:

    Oh and James in LA, I see that YOUR state Government is doing a bang up job what with your demographics, unemployment rate, budget surpluses and low tax rates!

  21. Fog says:

    Fred Thompson, Donald Trump and now Rick Perry. Who’s the next big thing? Romney’s not entertaining enough, and unfortunately Emmet Kelly passed away a long time ago.

  22. ponce says:

    Who’s the next big thing?

    I think Sarah Palin is still good for a laugh or two.

  23. James in LA says:

    @Sam: Any poll more than a year out would be better served to line bird cages.

    The screams about the demise of CA seem to belie the fact she’s still here. It’s not going anywhere. Neither are you. Neither am I. So keep trying to divide us, knowing it simply cannot work (see: insanity). Also, I am an import from MI, which makes CA’s problems seem like child’s play. And it all comes under the heading of the ancient husband/wife argument of bickering over money.

    Your side, however, is the party of Watergate, Pardons for War Criminals, (See: Watergate), Iran-Contra, The Reagan Debt, Impeachment, Govt Shutdowns, SCOTUS-appointed Presidents, Torture, Iraq, and crashing the American economy based on fantasy-land tax policy in which we all pay nothing. And that’s just the beginning. The GOP has zero governing achievements on which to run since Nixon went to China.

    It’s why your side cannot win, and why the GOP as constructed is finished.

    Vermont is a United State, one of the original 13 colonies, and a former President cannot enter it for fear of arrest of War Crimes. Your side is sick, Sam, sick with lawlessness and it will catch up to them eventually. They got Pinochet, and Millosevic died in The Hague.

  24. Sam says:

    Palin pulled within 5 points of Obama and she has not even declared.
    And has not spent any “campaign” cash.

  25. Sam says:

    @James in LA:

    “Your side”

    Oh gee, another ASSuming idiot!

    You go off like a child on the “trying to divide: than go all ASSuming with “your side”.

    Keep trying to export Mexifornia policy nationwide, that’s a winner for sure!

  26. Sam says:

    @James in LA:

    “It’s why your side cannot win”

    Do we need more proof that you are living in an alternate reality with your head where the sun don’t shine?

    See the HISTORIC election of 2010, the failed recall elections of Wisconsin, the R win in Dem NY9. Go back further to the win of the Kennedy seat, the win of the Governorship in NJ, the Hispanic woman R win in New Mexico.

    Reality is not your strong point.

    I have posted on here that I would love to see a moderate D run and it is not to divide, but to get this country back on track, and the corrupt ones there now are not doing it.

  27. Sam says:

    @James in LA:

    “There scandal arguments”

    Then you go on to list scandals on the other side! That’s rich!!!

  28. Hey Norm says:

    25 comments and 11 are by Sam.
    I’m just sayin’…

  29. James in LA says:

    @Sam: Sam, less than 50% of 50% of all voters voted for GOP candidates in 2010, which had the typical abysmal turn-out for an off-year election. You mistook that for a mandate, and now the Speaker of the House has Caucus Problems as a result.

    You see, the Speaker of the House exists to govern. The office is not responsible for disassembling government, which is what the tea party wants. Boehner is in a no-win situation because he must compromise to govern. The CR vote yesterday is just the beginning.

    This is what is called a “math problem,” which immediately handicaps my conservative friends, especially when it comes to the electoral map, a game board that includes very few pathways to victory for the GOP, and all lead through FL.

    Until the arguments coming out of your mouth stop exactly mirroring GOP talking points, I will feel free to continue using the phrase “your side.”

  30. Sam says:

    Even Bill the Stainer is “confused” about the Obama policy!

    “In the speech that the president gave to Congress, he didn’t propose any new taxes. The speech was $250 billion in tax cuts, $250 billion in spending over a period of two to three years. It focused mostly on a rather innovative set of payroll tax cuts and incentives to hire people.

    “I personally don’t believe we ought to be raising taxes or cutting spending until we get this economy off the ground. If we cut government spending, which I normally would be very inclined to do when the deficit’s this big, with interest rates already near zero you can’t get the benefits out of it.”

  31. Hey Norm says:

    Let’s review the trend:
    Palin polled high for a week…until everyone got to know her. there has been a pretty consistent slide since then.
    Perry polled high for a week…until everyone got to know him…the slide is ongoing.
    The Tea Party was imagined by the MSM to be this massive movement…until everyone got to know them…and they’ve been sliding ever since.
    Crazy Ideology in the abstract can be very attractive…then it runs into the real world.

  32. WR says:

    @Sam: The failed recall elections in Wisconsin? Don’t know how to break this to you, buddy, but two Republicans were recalled, along with 0 Democrats.

    Ask those two unemployed Republicans if the recall elections “failed.”

  33. MM says:

    Sam sounds Concerned.

  34. JohnMcC says:

    As 538 noted and as illustrated here, the Repub base is not deserting Mr Perry. The nomination is his unless he screws it up. After that he starts with disadvantages, to be sure. But the state of the economy 14 months from now will be determinant.

  35. Eric Florack says:

    @ponce: No gonna happen anymore than it did with Bush. Recall, please… it was the left who trid to pass of Bush as an extreme right-winger. In fact, Bush was never more than a centrist… who was, even given that failing far better than what the left came up with. Gore, for example.

    Romney will be better than Obama, though through Obama’s efforts, that bar has been set pretty low.

  36. Sam says:


    Wow dude, the entire recall fiasco had one goal, to take back control of the senate.
    THAT FAILED! Walkers bill is law and the state is better for it.