The latest CNN/ORC poll of nearly 1,000 U.S. residents delivered some very good news for Texas Gov. Rick Perry while indicating a little bit of trouble for President Barack Obama.
Perry, a late entry into the race for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, has rapidly risen to the top of the field. Among Republicans, 27 percent cited him as their first choice—a number that increased to 32 percent without former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in the mix. At the same time more than a quarter of Democrats queried said the party should nominate someone other than Obama as its candidate in next year's election. [See political cartoons about President Obama.]
As Byron York pointed out in The Washington Examiner, "In a survey taken in early August, 28 percent of Democrats said they wanted a different candidate. Polls taken in July and before showed Obama in a stronger position, with no more than 22 percent saying they preferred a different candidate. The current poll is based on interviews with 463 Democrats and has a margin of error of 4.5 percent."
It is unlikely that Obama's slippage among members of his own party will lead to any kind of a serious primary challenge. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who can probably lay claim to the title of "first alternate," has repeatedly stated her intention to leave public life, perhaps even as soon as the end of Obama's current term. Former Indiana Gov. and U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh—a former head of the now-defunct Democratic Leadership Council who would also be a formidable challenger to the incumbent president—has shown no movement toward entering the race either. Nonetheless Obama has to worry about his flank, especially if the election is going to be as close as it now appears. [Read Alex Parker: Is Obama Toast?]
The one thing the CNN/ORC poll does not tell us is whether the Democrats who want to see Obama replaced at the top of the ticket are unhappy with him because he has tried to do too much or because he has done too little. Or, to put it another way, to make them happy does he need to move left or move right.
Perry's surge is also indicative, not only of a general sense of unhappiness among Republicans with the current GOP field, but the need for what former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher called "a conviction politician." [See photos of the GOP hopefuls on the campaign trail.]
Recognizing the role that independents will play in picking the next president the Republicans who had been at or near the top of the field prior to Perry's entry seemed to hedge toward the middle wherever they could. The sudden explosion of Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann's popularity after the second debate—and the continuingly strong showing of Texas Rep. Ron Paul in some polls and at the Ames straw poll—could be attributed to the fact that they repeatedly put forward a clear, consistent and conservative message. However, as no sitting member of the U.S. House of Representatives has won the presidency since 1880, their campaigns were hobbled by concerns about their electability in a national race.
Perry, governor of the nation's second largest state, has a strong record of job creation and fiscal responsibility on which to run. Not a perfect record, perhaps, but a strong one. And coming from Texas he has a political and financial base upon which he can mount a serious national campaign. [Read Rick Newman: How Rick Perry Created Jobs in Texas]
It's still early but, with Perry surging and Obama slipping—and with the president's overall approval rating seemingly stuck at the lowest its been since he was elected—all indications are that we are in for a real race next year.