Rasmussen: Perry 44, Obama 41

Meaningful or not? Obama’s weaker than he’s ever been and Perry’s still in the pre-vetted honeymoon phase with voters, so a slight edge for the Republican is no great surprise. On the other hand, only once before has any GOPer led Obama head to head in a Rasmussen poll; that was Romney, briefly, earlier this year. Frankly, I think that says more about Mitt than it does about Perry. Romney’s the “electable” candidate and The One’s been circling the drain for months, and yet only once has he led him among likely voters? Geez.

But never mind likely voters. The important question is, as always, what do “GOP insiders” think?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry may be surging in polls of Republican primary voters, but his party’s Insiders aren’t convinced he’d be the best general election candidate. More than two-thirds of Republican Insiders say Mitt Romney has a better chance than Perry of defeating President Obama in 2012, according to this week’s National Journal Political Insiders Poll…

Many Republican Insiders acknowledged Perry’s appeal to conservatives but questioned his ability to win over independent voters. “Perry can fire up the base, but this election will be won in the middle, not on the fringes,” said one. Said another, “Having trouble ID-ing a single independent who’d vote for Perry.”…

Insiders in both parties raised questions about Perry’s durability under the intense scrutiny of a presidential campaign. “As a conservative Republican, I love Rick Perry,” said one Republican Insider, who added “but as a campaign strategist, I know the degree to which a few self-reinforcing oppo-hits can devastate a candidate.” A Democratic Insider said plainly, “Perry’s mouth will do him in.”…

A Democratic Insider added, “There is no state Perry can win that Mitt Romney won’t. There are some states Romney can put into play (MA, OH, PA, NH) that are harder for Perry to win.”

That’s Romney’s best argument against all the polls lately showing Perry stomping him. When push comes to shove, national polls mean squat. If Mitt wins New Hampshire, Nevada, and Florida then he’s set up for a long battle to the nomination, and the longer that battle goes on, the more voters’ minds will focus on electability against Obama looming in the general. That Democratic insider makes a good point: Are there any states that Perry’s more likely to win than Romney? His jobs message is more compelling than Mitt’s but he’s also more vulnerable to Mediscare tactics, which will distract from that message. The more the mood of the electorate turns towards an “anybody but Obama” mindset, the stronger the argument for the “safe” choice, especially one whose core regional appeal lies outside the south. How bad do you want to beat Obama? Bad enough to nominate the guy responsible for RomneyCare?

Via Mediaite, here’s Coulter making a similar point last night on Hannity. And speaking of “anybody but Obama,” a fun fact from PPP: In a hypothetical race in South Carolina between Obama, Perry, and hometown favorite Stephen Colbert, The One finishes … third among independents.

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