Tampa, Florida (CNN) - Hours before the start of the first-ever CNN/Tea Party Republican debate, a new national survey indicates that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is maintaining his lead in the race for the GOP presidential nomination.
And according to a CNN/ORC International Poll, what appears to be Perry's greatest strength - the perception among Republicans that he is the candidate with the best chance to beat President Barack Obama in 2012 - seems to be exactly what the GOP rank and file are looking for.
Full results (pdf)
On Monday, Sept. 12th, CNN will broadcast the "Tea Party Republican Debate," live from Tampa, Florida at 8 p.m. ET. Follow all the issues and campaign news leading up to the debate on CNNPolitics.com and @cnnpolitics on Twitter.
The survey, released Monday morning, indicates that 30 percent of Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP support Perry for their party's nomination, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 18 percent. Romney, who's making his second bid for the White House, had been leading the list of Republican candidates in the national polls, but since Perry launched his campaign a month ago he's jumped ahead of Romney to capture the top spot.
The poll's Monday morning release comes a few hours before CNN teams up with the Tea Party Express and tea party groups from all 50 states to put on a presidential debate that will be held at the Florida State Fairgrounds just outside Tampa.
"Perry's support comes mostly from Republicans who support the tea party movement, although he has a statistically insignificant edge among non-tea party Republicans as well," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
According to the survey, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is at 15 percent. The 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee has flirted with a presidential bid, but hasn't taken any concrete steps to launch a campaign.
Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who's making his third run for the White House, is at 12 percent. Every other candidate is in single digits.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, who was at 10 percent in the last CNN poll, now stands at four percent.
With Palin out of the running, the headline stays the same: Perry 32 percent, Romney 21 percent, Paul 13 percent and all other candidates, including Bachmann, in single digits.
"Perry doesn't simply have the most support in a hypothetical ballot - he also tops the list of GOP candidates on every personal quality tested," adds Holland.
Thirty-six percent, for example, see him as the strongest leader in the field, with Romney second at 21 percent. According to the poll, 35 percent say Perry is the Republican candidate most likely to get the economy moving again, with Romney in second at 26 percent.
Nearly three in ten say that Perry is the candidate who is most likely to fight for his beliefs, with Palin in second place at 23 percent and, significantly, Romney in a distant tie for fourth at just 11 percent.
But Perry's biggest strength may be the electability factor, with 42 percent saying he has the best chance of beating Obama next year. Some 26 percent say Romney has the best chance of defeating the president.
"That may go a very long way toward explaining his rise in the polls, since three-quarters of all Republicans say they would prefer a candidate who can beat President Obama over one who agrees with them on major issues," says Holland.
The poll indicates that Perry doesn't fare quite as well on issues. Only 26 percent say he is the Republican hopeful who is most likely to agree with them on the issues. That's good enough for the top spot on that measure, too, but it's a far cry from the low 30s and high 40s Perry pulls on electability and leadership.
Perry's biggest Achilles heel may be the likeability factor. Only one in four say he is the most likable GOP candidate out there, his lowest mark on the six items tested.
Romney typically finishes second to Perry on those measures, but it's worth noting that only 15 percent say he is most likely to agree with them on issues and only 11 percent say Romney is most likely to fight for his beliefs.
The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International September 9-11, with 446 Republicans and independents who lean Republican questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.
- Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @PsteinhauserCNN
He's not bad, the tea party is going to win the election whoever GOP picks.
All of your free media has been great for Perry. Thanks for giving him a pass.
Please also remember to make the CNN/Tea Party debate a Perry/Romney love fest, just like MSNBC did. We need to remind the unthinking rubes who they should vote for.
See you at the country club.
The Republican Establishment
Perry? Please No. Anyone but him! May as well elect Bush again.
A friggan telephone pole????????? 1000 people???????? Why not do it on the website and see what happens.....Ron Paul would make a killing..........
RIP United States of America. This is such a brainwashing of the American public. We are being "TOLD" that perry is most electable. Seriously? even Texans don't like him. Here's a toast to the end of America.
Ron Paul third place!
BWAAAAA! Perry cannot beat Obama.
The republican party is a bust . . . mentally handicap freddie could top the polls if they thought he could beat Obama. A sad sate of affairs. when all they can think of is beating Obama. No other solutions except get that black man out of our white house. LOL! Obama in 2021 Period.
He'll be electable when he understands that people would rather have facts guiding governmental decisions. Look at the planning that went into the invastion of Iraq. It was mostly ideology. That cause the previous administration to lose focus on Bin Laden and cost American lives and money. There was no forward thinking in that and shows that people need to have understanding which Perry doesn't have enough of now (and may never).
If Perry becomes the contender than every death penalty case he ignored will be tried on television and the web...we will elucidate the type of man he is and his callous view regarding facts...not to mention the forced immunization program he has endorsed...This guy is into Frankenscience and has abused the powers given to him as Governor...the only way he will become President will be through Koch brother financing...Conservatives need to look somewhere else besides Texas for their candidate...we have had enough unqualified people from there in positions of authority...their record stands firmly against human rights...
Perry has called for the execution of Social Security & Medicare.
Just how electable does that make him? Only r_____ fools that want to ignore that to vote Mr. Obama out of office find Ricky Perry "electable".
The man has a $27BILLION state deficit – – WORSE than Pawlenty`s – – I suppose that makes him "electable"?
Only a fool cuts his own throat. Chose wisely.
Sarah will enter eventually. Has cnn become the mouth piece for the tparty? It seems to have out foxed fakes knews. The kochs have long arms and deep pockets indeed. We can trust wolf to ask the tough but fair questions.
Maybe he's got some fleeting "electability" among voters who might simply vote on who might have the most classic jawline and slickest hair. When you actually get to this guy's record, he's completely dead in the water among the GOP and Independents. This guy is done. Al Gore's campaign man in Texas? Trying to force young girls to get vaccinated with Gardasil through -executive order- after Merck expands their lobbying and drops him a few thousand dollars? Wanting to have the blessing of the Tea Party, yet supported the Bailout, and took tens of billions in stimulus money for Texas while bragging about jobs and budgets? Even though his credentials are more fitting for that of a big-government liberal, it's even less likely any thinking Democrat would ever vote for him either. For obvious reasons, Ron Paul more consistently has the most electability when matched up against Obama. He rallies the independent vote, the senior vote, the youth vote, and pulls the anti-war vote, something none of the other candidates can do. Sound money. No more bailouts. Free the markets, end the wars, hold officials accountable. Get the corporations out of our government. Audit the Fed. Restore liberty and defend the Constitution. Let's take our country back. President Paul or bust, 2012.
Perry, Romney as well as the rest of the republican field are both unelectable in comparison to our current President in my opinion.
Let it also be known that Representative Paul has been elected into office more times than any other candidate in the race.. including of course, President Obama.
Has ANYONE listened to what this man believes?????????