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Rick Perry, new GOP frontrunner

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Melina Mara THE WASHINGTON POST BEDFORD, NH: Surrounded by media, presidential candidate for the GOP nomination and Republican Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, spoke to New Englanders at the Politics and Eggs breakfast, in Bedford, New Hampshire, Wednesday, August 17, 2011. He just got in the race, but Rick Perry is already Republicans’ top choice for the presidential nomination, according to a new Gallup Poll.

In the first long-running national poll taken since the Texas governor jumped into the 2012 presidential contest, Perry nabbed 29 percent of respondents’ support in the survey of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. The poll was taken August 17 to 21, four days after Perry announced his candidacy.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, heretofore the weak front-runner of the GOP pack, placed a distant second, with 17 percent

This far out from the election, national polls don’t necessarily mean all that much, and Perry’s team was downplaying the results on Wednesday afternoon.

“Polls at this point are meaningless,” Perry adviser David Carney said. “We have a long way to go before we can catch up to the other competitors who’ve been hard at work for months and sometime years building their campaigns and deploying their strategies.”

But for now at least, Perry has stolen the front-runner mantle from Romney.

According to the Gallup survey of 1,040 GOPers and independents leaning toward Republicans, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) placed third with 13 percent and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who recently won the Ames Straw Poll of Iowa voters, slid into fourth with ten percent. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

In Gallup’s July survey, Romney led with 23 percent of respondents’ support, but even then Perry was close on his heels with 18 percent.

One thing to note: Since the July Gallup survey and her straw poll victory. Bachmann has slipped a few points while Paul has moved up a bit (he placed a close second to Bachmann in the straw poll).

Though Perry’s breakthrough is impressive, it must be cautioned that it’s still extremely early and the real test for GOP candidates are the key contests in early states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and not the national GOP electorate.

Polls of the GOP field in September of 2007, for instance, showed former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the lead. Perry has also only faced only a fraction of the scrutiny that Romney, who is on his second presidential campaign, has already endured.

But still, this seems like a fairly big sign that something big happened with Perry’s splashy entrance into the GOP field. Let’s see if it holds.

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