Rising stars can slip fast in politics, especially when campaigns emerge on the horizon. Despite the hype surrounding the swagger of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who entered a crowded Republican field only two weeks ago, it remains too early to tell just how effective a general election nominee he will be against incumbent President Barack Obama.
Signs point to Perry as magnetic primary calendar theater that gets the red blood rising on the right, but they also show problems arising if he were to make it to the general. Pollsters and strategists within the party worry if the Southern, to-the-point straight talk will sell north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
There is not much evidence that it will. New York’s Rep Peter King, a Republican known for his occasional bomb drops, told the Lone Star State chief to “tone it down.”
Even Perry is nodding a little that he may have gone too far with statements about Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s actions on the economy as “almost treasonous,” and he is giving indications he is tempering his free-wheeling rhetorical style. There were acknowledgements that the first couple of weeks, while good play for cheering crowds of country folks looking for “boy next door,” were actually a rather bumpy start hitting a prickly national stage. “It’s not just Republicans that are paying attention,” noted Republican pollster David Winston on his blog. “The entire country is paying attention…. You’ve got to appeal to the Republican base and make sure that you’re maintaining your appeal to independents as well.”
“One can get caught up in the heady feeling that everyone around them agrees on their pet issue, but … independent voters are watching, too.”
That’s becoming a problematic assessment for Perry, who at one time Texans considered the rambunctious, more combative “evil twin” to former George W. Bush. Undoubtedly, Perry is a fierce campaigner who is more than well equipped and eager to unleash old school retail politic — and he hasn’t lost a campaign, yet. Still, in this sense, what’s good for the goose may not really be all that tasty for the gander. Media accounts might make Perry an exciting firebrand frontrunner, but the numbers show him running an uphill battle in the road to beat Obama.
The most recent YouGov poll released to Politic365 might show Perry at the top of the preferred GOP candidates in 2012 (at 10 percent, but only 1 point ahead of Mitt Romney), closing a gap from the previous week, but it still shows a wide gap of electability if he goes up against President Barack Obama. Only 35 percent of respondents say they would vote for Perry compared to 47 percent for Obama. Mitt Romney closes that gap by 4 points, with 37 percent going for the former Massachusetts governor and 45 percent for Obama.
The RealClearPolitics polling aggregator is a bit more revealing. Overall, most major polls currently show a tight, tight race in 2012 with Obama ahead by only 0.15 percent — yes, less than 1 percentage point — against the Republican field. But, let’s take the very GOP-leaning Rasmussen Report out of that equation, and the president is ahead by 2.7 percentage points. For Obama, that’s a little bit better and not as ridiculous, but it’s still alarmingly slim for the White House.
But, Obama vs. Perry shows the president ahead by nearly 11 full points, slamming the Texas governor back into Alamo mode. Every major poll has Obama ripping Perry up, with the McClatchy/Marist survey having him ahead by as much as 19 percent. Fox News couldn’t sugarcoat it: Perry down by 10. Even Rasmussen has Obama ahead by 5.
But, in the case of Romney, Obama is ahead by only 3.1 points – the Democratic-friendly Public Policy Polling actually shows a tie.
Clearly, the numbers are showing a much different picture of Perry’s chances than recent media reports suggesting the Texas governor is going to steamroll through the GOP primary and right into the White House. While the general election is a long way off, barring any significant game-changer, a Perry win against Obama is remote. But, as with all presidential elections, time will tell.