Texas Governor Rick Perry has surged into a double digit lead in the latest Rasmussen Reports national survey of likely Republican primary voters. Perry scored 29%, with former front-runner Mitt Romney second at 18%, Michelle Bachmann at 13%, Ron Paul at 9%, Herman Cain at 6%, and Newt Gingrich at 5%. Jon Huntsman surged to the 1% mark after claiming a whopping 69 votes at the Ames Straw poll.
Perry showed real strength among Tea Party Republicans, leading Bachmann by 39% to 21% in that group. But Perry also led Romney slightly among non-Tea Party Republicans 27% to 24%, showing some real strength across the board.
There is a new Republican front-runner, who will be well financed and competitive in every state. Is Romney now forced out of his cocoon in Iowa? His earlier strategy of essentially ignoring Iowa, and winning New Hampshire now has to be called into doubt. A big Perry win in Iowa will give him some momentum heading into New Hampshire, where a Perry win over Romney would spell real trouble for the Romney candidacy. There is a long way to go, but Romney’s basic strategy of winning early and then having the resources to outlast his rivals going forward appears to have developed a flaw. Rick Perry will have the financial resources to compete deep into the primary season. This is a brand new ballgame.