Rich Galen

National polls measuring support during the primary season are suspect because we don't have national primaries. We have state-by-state primaries and caucuses.

A national poll measuring support five months ahead of the first caucus is beyond suspect. It is meaningless.

Having started out with that warning let me make another assertion: No matter how suspect, meaningless, pointless, or futile a poll might be it is still better to be in first place than it is to be way back in the pack.

That's why the poll released yesterday afternoon by CNN showing Gov. Rick Perry leading all comers with 27 percent of the respondents, opening a 13 percentage point lead over Gov. Mitt Romney (14%) and 18 points over Rep. Michelle Bachmann (9%) is excellent news for Perry.

That was the "ballot test" that included Sarah Palin (who got 10%) and former NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani (tied with Bachmann at 9 percent)

In the head-to-head question which excluded Palin and Giuliani, their votes were redistributed among the top three pretty evenly:

Perry 32

Romney 18

Bachmann 12

Before you send me an angry-gram; Ron Paul was at six percent in both measures - about tied with Newt Gingrich.

The subgroups in a poll are called "cross-tabs."

For instance, when Palin and Giuliani are included, Perry leads among men, women, and in all age groups. He leads among all income groups and has a higher level of support among those who have attended college (31%) than those who have no college experience (22%).

In the CNN survey, Perry led among independents (26%), moderates (18%) and conservatives (34%).

Wait! There's more!

Perry also led among Southern respondents (31%) and among suburbanites (32%) which were the only two geographic cross-tabs listed.

Finally, Perry led all his competitors among those who called themselves Tea Party supporters (37%) and among those who said they were Tea Party neutral (18%). The CNN sample apparently didn't include enough people who self-identified as "Tea Party oppose" to register in the poll.

Without Palin and Giuliani the percentages are slightly different, but the overall result is the same: There is no subgroup in this poll with which Rick Perry does not lead.

So, what does this mean for the rest of the GOP field? It may mean that Mitt Romney is going to have to begin actively running against his Republican opponents, especially Perry. Romney was able to go through the main part of the summer without having to engage - a strategy with which I agreed.

None of the other candidates were laying a glove on him, either on the campaign trail or in the two debates, and there was no reason for Romney to get away from his plan to be considered the de facto nominee and run against President Obama.

The Obama campaign managers returned the favor by making it clear they believed they would be running against Romney.

With Perry's entry into the race just over two weeks ago, Romney is no longer the front-runner, Michelle Bachmann has virtually disappeared from the news, and Tim Pawlenty has withdrawn.

None of this tells us what, if anything, will happen if Palin and/or Giuliani and/or former NY Governor George Pataki and/or others get into the race.

Nor does it tell us who will be standing on the stage in Tampa, Florida accepting the nomination of the Republican Party, exactly one year from now.


Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at Mullings.com.