2012 isn't the "same old, same old" for the Republican Party.
Republican Party bosses love the idea of nicely choreographed nominating processes, with candidates bowing out graciously as they're faced with defeat under time-worn metrics. The problem for this cycle is that President Obama's polling numbers are so weak that any candidate with a pulse wants to run against him. So the idea that this Republican nomination will be decided by Super Tuesday is almost a fantasy.
The new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken between September 15 and September 18 shows a race that has Rick Perry at 31 percent, Mitt Romney at 24 percent, and Ron Paul at 13 percent, busting through the mythical double-digit ceiling he supposedly couldn't surmount. Michele Bachmann plummeted to 5 percent of the vote.
What's the data saying?
Clearly, Perry has a strong lead early on. But it is important to note that his campaign isn't growing. In the poll analysis, Perry, along with Herman Cain, is showing well with Republicans and independents who swing Republican. With true independents, he fades. That's why both Romney and Paul show better against Obama than Perry does.
Interestingly, Perry does not see a surge with Bachmann fading, but Paul does. It is important to note that in this nominating cycle, all delegates are proportionally divided until April, so it is possible for Paul to begin to make a serious run heading into the large states in April.
Can Ron Paul compete with Perry and Romney?
Yes. Paul's campaign, while not funded on a level like Perry's or Romney's, has intangibles that neither can reproduce. Paul has a deep grass-roots organization that can turn out voters on election day. He also has a record that is far more consistent than either Perry or Romney, and many voters find his record attractive.
And with only an 11-point margin between Paul and Romney, it's possible that he could go from longshot to primary challenger to Perry. He could even close the 18-point gap with Perry over the next several months. Anything's possible.
What do readers say?
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