Gallup: Perry 31, Romney 24, Paul 13, Bachmann ... 5

A good poll for Romney, a mediocre one for Perry, and pure devastation for Bachmann. She was at 13 percent in early August, shortly before Perry jumped in, and 10 percent in late August. Now she’s tied with Cain and Gingrich for fourth place, a good eight points behind, um, Ron Paul. Game over.

Perry is stronger among Republicans and independents who lean Republican, the voters who settle nominations. In a head-to-head race, 49% say they would vote for Perry, 39% for Romney…

In the poll, 44% say they definitely would not vote for Perry; 35% say that of Romney. Looked at another way, 62% say would either definitely vote for Romney or consider doing so; 53% say that of Perry.

Perry has increased his standing a bit, compared with results from Gallup’s daily poll in late August, but Romney has narrowed the gap between them. Then, Perry led Romney, 29%-17%. His 12-point margin is down to 7 points…

In the poll, 53% say they would prefer the nominee with the best chance of beating Obama; 43% say they want the candidate who agrees with them on almost all issues.

The boldface bit tells you why this is a good poll for Romney and only a mediocre one for Perry. (That plus the fact that Romney’s gained ground since last time, natch.) Head to head, Mitt leads Obama by two but Perry trails by five; the more numbers like that we see, the more Romney can capitalize on the majority of primary voters who are leaning towards electability in their desperation to oust Obama. The other takeaway from this, I think, is that Perry’s window to steamroll the rest of the field is now closed. If he had had two monster debate performances and widened his lead over Romney, you might see more big donors starting to shake loose and fall into his camp as the inevitable nominee. As it is, Palin must be watching his backsliding and Bachmann’s collapse and feeling more encouraged to run than ever. Still plenty of tea-party votes in play, and who knows how much of Perry’s support is owed not to his jobs record or any personal attribute but simply to him being a “true conservative” alternative to Romney. Palin, having a stronger brand, can pull some of those votes and make it a three-way race. Even if she falls short against Romney on electability grounds, by topping Perry she’d preserve her status as America’s most prominent tea-party pol.

One other point about electability. I’ve been meaning to post about this since last week but might as well toss it in here. How much do Democrats fear a Perry presidency? Maybe this much:

[G]iven these growing fears that Obama may lose in 2012 to any Republican with a pulse, maybe it’s time for Democrats to stop hoping that Perry will be the next Barry Goldwater. There’s admittedly not much they can do to shape the outcome of the presidential primaries, but they might wish to think twice before using their rapid-response teams to help Perry bury Romney.

One party operative close to these decisions told me there have been a “lot of conversations” about the dilemma, with some labor and environmental groups arguing for easing up on the anti-Romney message machine out of a belief that he would be the “lesser of two evils.”

Good thinking. If Obama is doomed, who would Democrats rather have in possession of the nuclear suitcase: the technocratic Romney, or the coyote-shooting Perry?

That’s practically a campaign ad for Perry in the primaries, not only according to “they’ll tell you who they fear” logic but as a knife in Romney’s electability argument. If Democrats are so desperately worried about The One losing to Perry in the general that they’d ease up on Romney to help him win the nomination, how unelectable can he be? Right, Perry ad team?

Here’s the sadly obligatory “Paul Gigot thinks Christie is still thinking about running” clip, which as far as I know is completely unsupported by any evidence that Christie really is thinking about running. In fact, in the entire course of the months-long “Christie for president” saga, I can’t recall a single syllable uttered by the man himself encouraging people to believe he might consider it. Ah well. The filing deadline to get on the ballot is next month, I believe, so this’ll all be over soon. Just a few more stories here and there to endure about Mitch Daniels or Paul Ryan moping about the state of the field and then we can concentrate on the race as is.