Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leads a new Field Poll of Republicans in delegate-rich California, but Texas Gov. Rick Perry also attracts significant support, claiming a close second place.
Romney leads Perry 28 percent to 20 percent in the survey that was conducted over the first two weeks in September, which included a debate in Simi Valley, Calif., at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
No other candidate placed in double-digits. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin earned eight percent, while Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich were at seven percent. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., was sixth, at seven percent.
Perry's entrance into the race has clearly compromised Romney's frontrunner status in the Golden State. In June, two months before Perry announced his candidacy, Romney was eighteen points clear of the field, at 30 percent, with Palin a distant second.
When Perry announced he would run for president, he gave an interview to Time's Mark Halperin, in which the brash Texas governor said he would compete in California.
"Now I'm enough of a realist to know that California is a pretty high hurdle for a Republican," said Perry. "But I'm going to go out there and I'm going to have a story that'll [make] a lot of people -- Independents and maybe even some Democrats -- look at me and go, 'That's the type of individual that we can get behind. You know to make America proud of itself again.'"
According to the Field Poll, however, if he wins the nomination, Perry's bluster about California may be all hat and no cattle.
In a general election matchup among all registered voters, Perry starts at a significant disadvantage, trailing President Obama by 19 points, 54 percent to 35 percent. Just a quarter of California voters have a favorable opinion of Perry, while 46 percent have an unfavorable opinion.
The poll represents a huge jump in name recognition since June, when Perry was only a potential candidate. But with increased name-ID comes increased scrutiny: while the percentage of voters who have a favorable opinion of Perry has increased seven points since a June survey, the percentage having an unfavorable opinion has increased by three times that number.
Romney runs closer to Obama but still trails by a significant margin, 51 percent to 38 percent. While Obama's anemic approval rating
in the state makes him appear vulnerable, California voters are not yet ready to consider either of the two top Republicans as viable alternatives.
The Field Poll was conducted Sept. 1-12, surveying 1,001 registered voters. The margin of error was +/- 3.1 percent. The GOP primary matchup was conducted among 333 registered Republicans, for a margin of error of +/- 5.6 percent.