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Rick Perry surges to front in latest GOP poll

Rick Perry
Republican presidential candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry, seen at the Black Hawk County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner in Waterloo, Iowa, Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011. AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Less than two weeks after officially announcing his presidential bid, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has surged to the top of the Republican field in the latest Gallup poll, taking a comfortable 12-point lead over his closest competitor, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

The poll, conducted Aug. 17-21, shows that 29 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents nationwide currently support Perry, while 17 percent support Romney. Two other candidates broke into double digits: Rep. Ron Paul won the support of 13 percent, while Rep. Michele Bachmann garnered 10 percent.

Two other partisan polling outfits -- the right-leaning Rasmussen Reports and the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling -- also released polls recently giving Perry a sizable lead.

The latest poll is the first survey Gallup conducted following Perry's Aug. 13 entry into the race, the Aug. 13 Iowa Straw Poll and the Aug. 12 Republican debate.

Bachmann won the influential Iowa Straw Poll after a great investment there, with Paul coming in a close second, but neither candidate appears to have benefited from the informal poll. Bachmann's support actually fell three points since Gallup's July poll.

Perry leads Romney in various important GOP constituencies, including older Republicans and Southern Republicans. Republicans who identify as "conservative" favor Perry over Romney, 33 percent to 16 percent. Weekly churchgoers also favor Perry over Romney, 34 percent to 16 percent.

This early in the race, national polls should be taken with a grain of salt -- Gallup notes that Fred Thompson polled well early in the 2008 Republican race, while Wesley Clark did well early in the 2004 Democratic race, but both candidates quickly fizzled out.

Additionally, since entering the race, Perry has earned new scrutiny from the press for a range of policy positions he's taken on issues including Social Security, global warming and the federal income tax. Even his conservative credentials in general have come under scrutiny.

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