Aided by strong tea party support, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has surged in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, pushing former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney into second place and significantly diminishing the once-rising star of Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Perry, who announced his candidacy three weeks ago, is now perceived by Republicans as the best candidate to beat President Obama, a distinction that Romney previously held
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The findings come on the eve of the first presidential debate for the Texas governor and just ahead of Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress on Thursday, which will feature proposals to create jobs and stimulate economic growth. The Republican candidates will debate on Wednesday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, one of several debates over the next few weeks that could reshape the race.
Perry is enough of an untested national campaigner — and debater — that it may take weeks to determine his staying power as a candidate. But the new poll findings foreshadow a potentially fierce competition between the two top Republicans, a contest likely to highlight ideological and demographic divisions within the party.
Among all Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, Perry has edged ahead with 27 percent of the vote, followed by Romney with 22 percent, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin at 14 percent, Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) with 8 percent and Bachmann at 6 percent.
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