Florida: Romney 28, Perry 21, Bachmann 13

As Allah reported yesterday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry appears to have a substantial lead in Iowa no matter which way you slice it. Polls from the right and left (not to mention a poll from explicitly Rick Perry people) show him with the edge over Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. But in Florida, at least, Romney hasn’t lost his frontrunner status:

According to a Sachs/Mason Dixon survey, 28 percent of likely Republican primary voters in Florida say they support Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who’s making his second bid for the GOP nomination, with 21 percent backing Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who earlier this month launched a run for the White House.

The poll indicates that 13 percent support Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, seven percent support former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and radio talk show host Herman Cain, five percent back former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and four percent support Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who’s making his third bid for the presidency. Everyone one else is in the low single digits, and 17 percent are undecided.

The survey’s release comes two and a half weeks before CNN teams up with the Tea Party Express, a leading national tea party organization, for a GOP presidential debate in Tampa, Florida on September 12. Florida is a very important state in presidential politics. The state’s primary date is not yet nailed down, but it’s most likely Floridians will vote early in the caucus and primary season. Florida’s also a crucial battleground state in the general election and Tampa will be the site of next year’s Republican National Convention.

Both Romney and Perry lead Obama in Florida, according to the poll, but Romney’s lead over the incumbent is a far more substantial eight points, compared to Perry’s one-point advantage over Obama.

If the question is whether Romney can afford to not compete in Iowa, perhaps this poll helps answer that question a little bit. Right now, Romney is facing criticism that he has already written off Iowa and South Carolina — but he can’t afford to ignore both. Which to focus on? As long as Romney retains a sure edge in Florida, it might actually behoove him to focus less on Iowa and more on South Carolina, where Perry is also the putative pack leader, but where Romney might stand more of a chance at success than in Iowa (at least, Rep. Tim Scott says he thinks Romney could win SC if he put in the effort).

But, of course, as AP pointed out yesterday, if Perry were to stomp Bachmann in a Romney-less Iowa, he would be even more formidable in South Carolina. And if Perry won so definitively in Iowa that he cleared the field of other conservatives, then Romney could even be threatened in New Hampshire. If Perry barely beats Bachmann, however, and Romney has built up strong support in South Carolina, then the Palmetto State primary would be an especially interesting match-up between fresh-off-a-New-Hampshire-victory Romney and fresh-off-an-Iowa-victory Perry.

P.S. If the primary calendar makes your head spin as it does mine, NBC has a helpful primer on the calendar chaos. Florida and Arizona are the rogues responsible for the confusion.