Poll: Michele Bachmann—Yes, That's Right—Claims Top Spot in GOP Field

| Tue Jul. 19, 2011 8:26 AM PDT

All that fact-checking must be paying off for Michele Bachmann. Just over a month after officially entering the presidential race, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has surged to the top of the GOP heap, according to a new national survey by Public Policy Polling.

Twenty-one percent of voters picked Bachmann in the PPP survey, narrowly edging out Mitt Romney who finished second at 20 percent. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who hasn't even entered the race, took third at 12 percent, with Herman Cain (11 percent) and Texas Rep. Ron Paul (7 percent) rounding out the top five.

PPP attributes Bachmann's rise to her wide support among the GOP's hard right bloc, which doesn't like Romney much at all:

Bachmann's rise has been fueled by her appeal to voters on the far right- and their skepticism about Romney. Romney has the lead with centrist Republicans (23-17) and with those defining themselves as only somewhat right of center (24-17). But among 'very conservative' voters only 48 percent have a positive opinion of Romney to 34 percent who view him negatively, weak numbers, and Bachmann's capitalizing on that with a 26-15 lead over Romney, who's in third place with that group of voters.

Oddly enough one of the best things that could happen to Romney right now is the late entry of Sarah Palin into the race. In a ballot test including her as a candidate he leads the way with 20 percent to 16 percent for Bachmann, 12 percent for Palin, and 11 percent for Perry. 44 percent of Palin's voters say they would vote for Bachmann if Palin didn't run, compared to only 6 percent who say they would otherwise vote for Romney. So basically a Palin candidacy would take a large bite out of Bachmann's support with virtually no impact on Romney.

The other big story in PPP's survey is the implosion of former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty. After winning 13 percent in a late May poll, Pawlenty has slid  to a meager 5 percent. Indeed, Pawlenty's campaign is flailing so badly that the New York Times and Bloomberg News have suggested he might drop out out of the race this year. For Pawlenty's part, he's betting his chips on the upcoming Ames Straw Poll, which could make his campaign (as it did Mike Huckabee's in 2007) or deal it a fatal blow. Today's PPP doesn't help his chances there.

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