Alternate headline: “Confirmed: Tea-party candidate popular with tea partiers.” He banks 35 percent of their vote compared to just 14 percent each for Romney and Bachmann(!). But that’s not the story here. This is the story:
The poll finds that 58% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents identify themselves as supporters of the Tea Party movement, with 36% saying they do not consider themselves supporters. Included among the group of Tea Party supporters is a smaller group — representing 12% of Republicans — who say they are “strong” supporters of the movement. Among this smaller group, Perry’s lead is even greater, 46% to 16%, over Bachmann, with all other candidates in single digits…
Perry, not surprisingly given his lead among Tea Party supporters, is the preferred candidate among Republicans who identify “government spending and power” as the set of issues most important to them. Perry is the top choice of 31% of these Republicans, with Romney (17%), Paul (13%), and Bachmann (12%) vying for second place.
But Perry also has a slight edge over Romney, 25% to 19%, among Republicans who say business and the economy is their top issue. Romney, a wealthy businessman, has argued his business credentials make him better suited to solve the economic problems facing the country than candidates who lack significant private-sector experience.
This is what I meant last night about coalition-building. Romney can win a two-man race if he’s set up as “the economy candidate” versus Perry as “the ideologue,” but if Perry fills both niches the race is over. Those Texas jobs numbers go a long, loooong way. In fact, I wonder if Romney’s still the favorite even if he does somehow seize the economic mantle from Perry: Per the blockquote, 56 percent of Republicans are part of Perry’s tea-party base versus just 36 percent who say they’re not TP supporters. And even among the latter group, Romney’s lead is just three points. Who exactly is his base right now among primary voters?
Two other footnotes from the data. One: These are national numbers, but if the tea-party spread here looks the same in Iowa, Bachmann is finished. I’m shocked that she can’t do better than tie Romney among her own ostensible core constituency, and among non-tea-partiers, she clocks in at just six percent. If she comes in second in Iowa, she might as well drop out. Two: Ron Paul, whom Jon Stewart recently called “patient zero” in the growth of the tea party, finishes with 12 percent among tea-party supporters and … 16 percent among non-supporters. There have always been competing reads on the tea party, one claiming that it’s an essentially libertarian populist movement and another that it’s really just a group of very conservative Republicans who are disaffected with the RINO-ness of the leadership. (They overlap on spending, of course.) These numbers suggest that the latter read is more accurate, although we’d need more data to know what’s driving the split. Was it his foreign-policy comments at the last debate? Centrist Republicans may be less hawkish than TPers and therefore more receptive to Paul on that.
Via the Daily Caller, here’s Krauthammer on Fox last night explaining how Perry’s exposed the fundamental weakness of Romney’s campaign.