A new CNN poll out today hints that Mitt Romney continues to lose ground on Texas Gov. Rick Perry, even among older voters. That’s despite Romney’s increasingly heated attacks on Perry’s comments regarding Social Security that began with last week’s debate at the Reagan Library.
Perry leads Romney, 30-18, and is seen as the most electable among the GOP candidates:
Thirty-six percent, for example, see him as the strongest leader in the field, with Romney second at 21 percent. According to the poll, 35 percent say Perry is the Republican candidate most likely to get the economy moving again, with Romney in second at 26 percent.
Nearly three in ten say that Perry is the candidate who is most likely to fight for his beliefs, with Palin in second place at 23 percent and, significantly, Romney in a distant tie for fourth at just 11 percent.
Romney’s opportunistic attack from the left on Perry’s Social Security comments probably contributes quite a bit to that weak number. Romney has said similar things, but not only won’t defend them now, he is savaging Perry. Perry has left himself room to soften or modify his comments as time goes on, but Romney appears increasingly desperate, shrill and dishonest. And unprincipled. Romney already carried the baggage of RomneyCare, or ObamneyCare as Pawlenty called it, and of having been on both sides of several issues. But being on both sides of his own direct comments on Social Security? Even in politics, that’s a bit too much to take.
But Perry’s biggest strength may be the electability factor, with 42 percent saying he has the best chance of beating Obama next year. Some 26 percent say Romney has the best chance of defeating the president.
“That may go a very long way toward explaining his rise in the polls, since three-quarters of all Republicans say they would prefer a candidate who can beat President Obama over one who agrees with them on major issues,” says Holland.
There’s another GOP debate tonight. The other candidates’ plans are probably to put Perry on the defensive, but as things stand now it’s Romney who may have maneuvered himself into the weakest overall position.
According to the CNN poll, Bachmann also continues to slide and is now in fifth place behind both Sarah Palin (who isn’t in the race, at least yet) and Ron Paul.