Rick Perry may not be running for president yet, but a Gallup poll out Thursday indicates that if the election were held now, the Texas governor would carry a critical geographic region.
Though perceived front-runner Mitt Romney led the West and Midwest comfortably, and scraped past Rudy Giuliani in the East, Perry overwhelmingly commanded the South, with 22 percent to Sarah Palin’s 13 percent. Romney came in third with 12 percent.
Gallup notes that “Perry’s entry would be significant from a competitive standpoint, given that his regional strength matches a weakness for Romney.” But perhaps the more telling figures come in the same poll conducted sans unannounced candidates – a category that includes Perry, Giuliani, and Palin – showing that the real victim of a Perry bid is not Romney, but Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.
Without Perry in the mix, Romney took first and Bachmann second in all four U.S. regions, with the margin of discrepancy ranging from 4 percentage points in the Midwest to 15 percentage points in the West. Perry appeals to the same social conservative base that favors Bachmann in regions like the Midwest.
Bottom line: If Perry can find a way to expand his appeal, he “could emerge as the new GOP front-runner should he become an official candidate,” Gallup observes. But should he decide not to run, he all but ensures that his void is Bachmann’s to fill.
Polling was conducted via telephone July 20-24, among 1,088 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. The margin of error is +/- 4 percentage points.