Certainly it is way too early for Mitt Romney to enter panic mode, but a new Magellan survey shows Rick Perry leading Romney in Nevada, which has been considered a Romney firewall. The survey has Perry ahead among likely voters by a 29% to 24% margin over Romney. Nobody else is even close, with Herman Cain at 7%, Michelle Bachmann and Ron Paul at 6%, Newt at 5%, and once again Jon Huntsman making a big move at 1%. (Has there been a state where Huntsman has cracked the vaunted 4% mark?)
Romney’s strategy of setting up an early firewall of New Hampshire and Nevada, and then outlasting his opponents, has developed some major cracks. I anticipate that Perry will come back down a bit after a fuller media vetting of some of the policy ideas in his book, but those ideas likely will be more harmful in the general election than they will be in Republican primaries.
The numbers, as always, have some highly interesting items in the cross-tabs. Perry leads Romney by 12 points among men, and leads Romney by a whopping 20 points with those who identify themselves as Tea Party. Romney has a slight lead with female voters. So I guess Romney is the liberal in this race, and that is just not a good place to be in a Republican primary field. The warning sign is up on Romney. How will he respond?