Rick Perry can do so much more than
eat corn dogs (Leschnyhan/Dreamstime.com)
Public Policy Polling (8/19-21, Republican primary voters, no trendlines):
Rick Perry: 22
Mitt Romney: 19
Michele Bachmann: 18
Ron Paul: 16
Herman Cain: 7
Newt Gingrich: 5
Rick Santorum: 5
Someone else/not sure: 5
Jon Huntsman: 3
This isn't PPP's first survey of Iowa Republicans, but it's their first to include Rick Perry, and he debuts atop the field, bumping Mitt Romney from the top spot. The poll captures Perry's meteoric rise, but it also demonstrates Mitt Romney's utter inability to expand his base of support. In fact, it's going the wrong way; in the previous PPP poll, Romney was at 26%; now he's at 19%.
While Bachmann remains in contention, she got no bounce from her Ames victory, though Ron Paul, who nearly beat her at Ames, is expanding his base of support. If Sarah Palin were to run, Bachmann and Paul have the most to lose, dropping three and four points respectively. Palin would still trail each of them, though, with just 10% support.
The biggest strategic implication of this poll is probably that Mitt Romney can't afford to ignore Iowa. It would be one thing if Michele Bachmann (or Tim Pawlenty before her) had captured Iowa. Romney could write that off as a regional victory. But if Perry takes Iowa, it would show his ability to win outside the south, and Romney's response—a victory in New Hampshire—would be discounted as a regional win.
One obvious caveat here is that Iowa is a caucus state, which makes polling difficult and puts organizing at a premium. The Republican caucuses are different than the Democratic caucuses, however; there's just one round of voting, and generally the votes are cast by secret ballot, making the GOP process much more like a primary than the Democratic process.