Conservatives have cast him as the last best hope for their cause, and Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry himself has said he's felt "called"—not by a higher power, but via phone by other Americans—to run for the presidency. Now, with his entry into the 2012 GOP primary field all but certain, he indeed has strong support among Republicans—or at least among those who have heard of him.
According to a Gallup poll released Tuesday, despite being recognized only by little more than half of Republicans or Republican-leaning independents, Perry has the highest "positive intensity score" of any other potential GOP candidate tested, surpassing everyone from the former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, who is lesser known than Perry, to those with high profiles, like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin. The score, Gallup says, consists of the percentage of favorable opinions minus the percentage of unfavorable opinions among Republicans who recognize the candidate. Perry's score is 23 percent, compared with Cain's 22 percent, Palin's 18 percent, and Romney's 14 percent.
Other real or possible candidates, like Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who tied Palin with 18 percent, and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, with 20 percent, also trail Perry. And Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich all have scores within single-digits, according to the report by Gallup.
In a separate USA Today/Gallup poll, Perry's high esteem among those who know him helped rank him second overall (17 percent) behind only Romney (26 percent) among GOP presidential prospects. With members of the Tea Party, Perry is the frontrunner, beating Romney by 1 percentage point.
According to Gallup, if Perry does step in to the race this weekend, as sources like Politico have reported, he'll be ahead of the pack, especially with the Tea Party. "Perry at this point outshines Romney in terms of generating enthusiasm among those who recognize him. If Perry maintains this position as his recognition increases, he has the potential to take over the front-runner position from Romney," says the Gallup report. "At the same time, the increased scrutiny that comes from being an official presidential candidate could make it difficult for Perry to maintain his currently positive image."
Updated on 08/09/11: This post was updated to include Sarah Palin's poll numbers.