A survey of hypothetical general election trial heats in the 2012 presidential election shows that, since Labor Day, President Barack Obama has gained significant ground on the two frontrunners for the Republican nomination.
While some of this bump can be attributed to Obama's speech on jobs before a joint session of Congress, an equally striking aspect of recent 2012 polling cannot. Namely, Texas Governor Rick Perry has lost ground on President Obama at more than twice the rate of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. This indicates that the American public is souring on Rick Perry in and of himself.
The chart above tells the tale. In the seven national polls taken both after Rick Perry's entry in the campaign and before Labor Day, Obama led Perry by an average of 1.8 percent and Romney by an average of 1.0 percent. These polls gave Romney an almost non-existent electability edge of 0.9 percent (rounding makes it 0.9 percent, even though the chart shows 0.8 percent).
By way of comparison, in the six national polls taken since Labor Day, Obama has led Perry by 8.2 percent, and Romney by an average of 3.0 percent. Thus, Romney now has a very significant electability edge of 5.2 percent, allowing him to remain competitive with Obama even as Perry falls well behind.
This trend is less pronounced, but still significant, when anomalous Rasmussen polling is removed from the averages:performed poorly in the 2010 midterm elections, was the only polling outfit showing Perry performing better against Obama than Romney. Even with their surveys removed from the averages, since Labor Day Romney has improved 2.8 percent relative to Perry in hypothetical 2012 general election match-ups.
There is no guarantee that this trend will hold. By the time of the early caucuses and primaries, it is possible that Rick Perry will be outperforming Mitt Romney in general election trial heats against Barack Obama. Still, this development is worth keeping an eye on, especially given the rapid rise and fall of so many other Republican presidential contenders in 2011.