With four national polls in the last week showing Texas Gov. Rick Perry ahead of the field in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, it looks more like the contention that former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney was a weak frontrunner has proved true. But as the primary season prepares to kick into high gear, how has Perry moved to the front so quickly? Numbers released on Tuesday from a Public Policy Polling (D) poll of crucial primary state South Carolina tell the story not just of Perry's new dominance of conservative voters, and Romney's weakness on the right, but of more concern for him -- they show a real vulnerability in the center as well.
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The fact that Perry is now dominating in South Carolina, a conservative state, is probably not news to campaign watchers. The PPP survey shows him with 36 percent of the potential vote, followed by Romney with 16 and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) at 13, the second poll in five days to show Perry with a big lead. But the crosstabs show that Romney, the presumed "moderate" candidate (or at least more moderate), cannot even defend his own turf in the middle of the GOP electorate in a conservative state. He faces an implacable right wing of the party, which is fully in Perry's column, and moderate sect that is willing to support Perry despite his more strident views.