Governor Perry leads former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney 31 to 24 percent. That's according to a USA Today/Gallup survey taken after last week's Tea Party debate in Tampa. University of Houston Associate Professor of Political Science Brandon Rottinghaus says Governor Perry's debate performances have been strong enough to capture and hold onto the lead. But Rottinghaus points out it's still pretty early in the race.
"And so voters are still trying to decide which candidate they want to support. They're still waiting for more particulars from each candidate. And that's going to, I think, help solidify the race — not only for the Republican side, but also for the general election."
The other Texan in the race, Congressman Ron Paul is favored by 13 percent of would-be primary voters. That's a better showing than at this time during the 2008 campaign. Professor Rottinghaus says this doesn't necessarily improve Paul's chances of earning the nomination.
"But the fact remains that there is a segment of Republican voters who are disciples of his kind of ideology, and any candidate who's going to win the Republican nomination has to be able to talk to these voters."
The next debate between the eight GOP candidates takes place Thursday in Orlando. It will be the third Republican debate since Labor Day.