Texas Gov. Rick Perry has vaulted to the front of the field of Republican presidential candidates, according to the first Gallup poll conducted since Perry declared his candidacy earlier this month.
Perry now leads former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 25 to 14 percent. Last month, Perry ran a close second to Romney, trailing the erstwhile frontrunner by just two points despite the fact that Perry had yet to officially announce he would run.
Perry expands his lead to 12 points, 29 to 17 percent, when Gallup substituted the second choices of respondents who selected former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who have not ruled out bids but are considered unlikely to run.
With Palin and Giuliani out of the picture, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., is third at 13 percent, while Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., runs fourth with 10 percent. No other candidate earned more than four percent, and 17 percent of respondents said they were undecided.
Perry, who now may be considered the national frontrunner, runs strongest among older and Southern Republicans, earning nearly 40 percent of the vote among those groups. He also leads by a wide margin among those Republicans identify as conservatives. Even among liberal and moderate Republicans, Perry (17 percent) and Romney (21 percent) are virtually tied.
Meanwhile, Bachmann's fourth-place showing indicates that she received little if any national bounce from her victory earlier this month in a key straw poll of Iowa Republicans. Regionally, Bachmann is strongest in the Midwest (15 percent), but she still trails Perry (23 percent), Romney (20 percent) and Paul (18 percent) in that part of the country.
Gallup previously reported that Perry's name recognition has been rising -- with no noticeable drag on his favorability.
But Perry's resounding debut in the Republican field is not a guaranteed indicator of success: Former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., was a strong second to Giuliani upon entering the 2008 race, and retired General Wesley Clark led the first Gallup poll of the 2004 Democratic race after he announced his candidacy.
The Gallup poll was conducted Aug. 17-21, surveying 1,040 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. The margin of error is +/- 3.0 percent.