Conservative elites might be smarter than Republican primary voters. A CNN poll recently showed that Republicans think Rick Perry is more electable than Mitt Romney. I pointed out that conservative voters might be blinded by their own enthusiasm for the Texas governor, who is decidedly more exciting to right-wingers than the former moderate governor of Massachusetts. Prominent Republicans like Mike Huckabee and Tim Pawlenty think Perry's rhetoric is too right-wing for mainstream voters. And a Public Policy Polling poll backs that up.
The PPP poll shows President Obama barely beating Mitt Romney, 49-45 percent, but handily beating Rick Perry, at 53-41 percent.
"In just three weeks Barack Obama has nearly doubled his lead over Rick Perry," said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. "That would seem to be an indication that Perry’s comments about Social Security are giving him trouble with swing voters."
So Tim Pawlenty and Mike Huckabee are correct.
Of course, in this environment, practically any Republican is "electable." Rick Perry is just marginally less electable than Mitt Romney. But it is a fact that Barack Obama remains personally popular despite very real frustration with the government, and in that sort of situation, voters will reelect the president over a challenger they find unacceptable. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, is more likely to engender a "well he can't be any worse than the other guy" attitude.
But: The fact that Perry's more exciting to conservatives than Romney could also make him a more formidable opponent than Romney, who excites ... no one. (Michele Bachmann has 53 percent unfavorable ratings, by the way, with only 17 percent of those polled unsure how they feel about her. Those are bad numbers.)
The usual caveats about automated national polls conducted this far out from an election apply. PPP is generally considered pretty accurate, but they do conduct polling for Democratic candidates.