Rick Perry’s (Southern) Charm

Kye R. Lee

America is a politically divided nation. For all the outcomes of the 2008 election, it wasn’t a true redrawing of the political map. Some states, which were and continue to change demographically, were primed to become full-fledged swing states, and a strong Democratic candidate in a change election brought them to his side.

But two years later, the GOP was again winning statewide elections in states like Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Virginia, and a return to the traditional calculus began. Now as the GOP moves ahead with the 2012 presidential primary process, Republican voters are starting to return to their roots: falling for a southern Governor.

Other GOP flavors of the month have so far been sampled: real estate mogul Donald Trump made some loud noises and bowed out, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) seemed interesting for a while but has probably peaked. Because in the end, what are the actual chances that the modern Republican Party will nominate a congresswoman from Minnesota, or a multi-millionaire former governor from an incredibly blue state? History tells us they aren’t great.This is what new national polls of GOP voters show: not only is Rick Perry rising fast in a challenge to the idea of an inevitable Romney candidacy, but a deeper look shows Perry has already gone much further than others in little more than a week on the campaign trail. Perry has now taken the lead in Gallup, Public Policy Polling (D), and Rasmussen national surveys of Republican voters, outside the margin of error in each. Bachmann, by contrast, led in one national poll, a PPP survey from mid-July, by a single point over Romney.

One of the keys, looking at the crosstabs of the Gallup GOP survey, is geography. When Gallup polled Republicans at the end of July on their presidential field, Perry was still undecided on a run, yet nearly doubled Romney’s total in the South, as the former Mass. Gov. led in the East, Midwest, and West. In the latest Gallup poll of the GOP electorate, Perry is the first choice of 39 percent among southern Republicans, more than three times the next closest candidate, Romney, at 12 percent. Perry also leads smaller margins in the Midwest and West, by 3 and 6 percent, respectively. In the east, Romney leads….by a single point.

Perry has made great strides in Iowa recently, as Romney has solidified his lead in New Hampshire. Looking ahead, South Carolina as the third primary state will take on more significance if it turns into a two person race. The last public polling done in the Palmetto State was in July, showing Romney way ahead testing a field without Perry. Expect that to change when polling organizations start releasing new numbers on the state with the augmented field.

Unless the GOP plans on nominating an unity candidate that could win in red and purple states alike, the current math looks like a more traditional path: Perry has caught fire because he more closely fits the GOP mold when it comes to the electoral map.

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