Romney Maintains Lead Over Republican Field

Romney Maintains Lead Over Republican Field

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - July 21, 2011

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney sits atop another national poll and appears best positioned to challenge Barack Obama in the general election, though he trails the president in a hypothetical general election matchup.

Romney garners support from 26 percent of voters who lean Republican in a new ABC/Washington Post poll. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin comes in second with 16 percent. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who has surged since announcing her campaign in late June, rounds out the top three with 13 percent support. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is still deciding whether to launch a presidential bid, comes in a distant fourth place with 8 percent. Behind Perry, Ron Paul has 7 percent; Herman Cain, 7 percent; Newt Gingrich, 4 percent; and Jon Huntsman, 3 percent. Without Palin in the race, Romney's support jumps to 30 percent, Bachmann to 17 percent and Paul to 10 percent. Perry remains at 8 percent.

The poll brings more bad news for Tim Pawlenty, who has had trouble gaining traction and continues to round out the bottom of the ballot in several national polls. The former Minnesota governor, who has been on the stump in Iowa all week, tied for last place with Rick Santorum at 2 percent support.

Though she hasn't publicly decided whether to make a White House run, Palin is seen by Republicans as someone who understands them and, by a very slim margin over Romney, as the candidate who best reflects GOP values. A plurality of Republicans say Romney is best positioned to beat Obama, is the strongest leader and has the best experience.

Romney comes closest of all the GOP contenders to Obama in a head-to-head matchup, though the president still edges him, 49 percent to 47 percent, among registered voters. The margin has shrunk 1 percent since June, but Obama has made headway with independents in that time. The president leads Romney among this key swing constituency, 52 percent to 43 percent. In June, Romney has a four-point advantage. When tested against the remaining GOP challengers, Obama leads each by at least 10 points.

The ABC/Washington Post poll was conducted July 14-17 among 1,001 adults. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points and 5.5 percentage points for the sample of voters who lean Republican.

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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