After two successive sub-par debate performances, it looked like Rick Perry might have blown his chance to grab the Republican presidential nomination.  According to a CNN poll taken in the three days after Thursday’s debate — including the time when Herman Cain won a surprise victory in a Florida straw poll — Perry still has a significant lead over the rest of the Republican field, with or without Sarah Palin included:

Despite his performances in the two most recent Republican presidential debates, a new national survey indicates that Texas Gov. Rick Perry remains on top of the field in the race for the GOP nomination.

But a CNN/ORC International Poll also indicates that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney does better than Perry in hypothetical 2012 general election matchups against President Barack Obama and matches evenly with the president on the issues and on personal characteristics.

According to the survey, which was released Monday, 28 percent of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP say they support Perry as their party’s presidential nominee, with Romney at 21 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is at ten percent, with Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who’s making his third bid for the White House, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and radio talk show host Herman Cain, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, all at seven percent. The poll indicates that Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota is at four percent, with former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania at three percent and former Utah Gov. and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman at one percent.

Palin has flirted with a bid for the GOP nomination, but the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee has not taken any concrete steps towards launching a campaign. Taking Palin out of the mix produces a similar result: 30 percent for Perry, 22 percent for Romney, 11 percent for Gingrich, and all other candidates in single digits.

In fact, it’s rather interesting to see that Perry has pretty much maintained his standing in the field, dropping from 30% to just 28% from two weeks earlier even in a weekend filled with bad news about his campaign.  Romney picked up three points for his best showing of the Perry period in the race.  That still gives Perry a decent if not exactly comfortable seven-point national lead. Perry narrowly leads among independents over Romney (24/21) as well as Republicans (34/23), again more or less as he did before.

Even more tellingly, voters still don’t appear to be looking for another late-entry champion.  Palin dropped by more than half in the last two weeks, from 15% to 7%, and Ron Paul dropped from 12% to 7%.  “Someone else” blipped up a point to 3%, a third of what that choice got in July and half of what it got in August.  Herman Cain picked up a couple of points to tie Palin and Paul at 7% for his best showing in the series, while Michele Bachmann stayed at 4%, down from a peak of 12% in July.  Taking Palin out makes no real difference in vote distribution, either, nor does “Someone else” increase its share from 3%.

Perry’s standing hasn’t changed much in the general election, either.  Among registered voters in the wider sample, Obama beats Perry 51/46, unchanged in the last month.  The same is true for Obama/Romney, the same as August at 49/48.   Those come as Obama’s job approval remains underwater at 45/52 and voters only agree with him on the issues at 46/52.

It looks like voters will be more patient with Perry than perhaps some of the pundits have been.