In U.S. presidential politics, a new public opinion poll shows a wide open race for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. Republicans can pick from no fewer than 10 presidential hopefuls. But that has not stopped some activists from pushing at least one more politician to join the race - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
The latest Fox News poll has former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the top spot with 23 percent, followed by Texas Governor Rick Perry at 19 percent. That is a change from last month’s survey, where Perry led Romney by seven percentage points. Before that, Romney had led the field for months. Other recent polls show Perry still leading the field.
Perry’s drop in the Fox poll comes in the wake of bad reviews of his debate performances in recent weeks and the surge of little-known Georgia businessman Herman Cain. Cain placed third in the latest Fox poll with 17 percent support, coming on the heels of his surprise victory in a recent straw poll, or test vote, in Florida.
No clear consensus
The latest opinion survey suggests the Republican race is wide open, with Romney and Perry as the top two contenders.
Many Republicans see flaws, though, in all the current candidates and that has given way to fresh calls for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to join the race.
One voter urged Christie to reconsider his decision not to run for president during a recent speech at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.
One woman said, “Please sir, we need you. Your country needs you to run for president.”
Christie replied, “I hear exactly what you are saying and I feel the passion with which you say it, and it touches me. But by the same token, that heartfelt message you gave me is also not a reason for me to do it. That reason has to reside inside me.”
The possibility that Christie might change his mind and join the race has excited conservatives who like the New Jersey governor’s blunt style and willingness to cut government spending. But Christie also holds moderate views on some social issues that could disappoint conservatives, if he decides to run.
Rick Perry also excited Republicans when he joined the race, but he has drawn criticism from his rivals for supporting tuition breaks in Texas for the children of illegal immigrants, a stand many conservatives oppose.
Perry’s recent problems show the pitfalls of a late entry into the campaign, said ABC News Political Director Amy Walter.
“If we have learned anything this week from Rick Perry, it is that it is hard to jump into the race for president this late into the game,” said Walter.
Analyst John Fortier of the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center said conservative desire for Christie to join the race and earlier demands for Perry to get involved stem from lingering doubts that Romney is a true conservative.
“And I think for the [Republican] base, Rick Perry seems a little bit more of a natural fit. There is some question as to whether Mitt Romney is really ‘one of us,’ they will ask,” said Fortier.
Fortier said Romney might have an advantage among Republican voters, however, who are looking for the most electable candidate to face President Barack Obama in next year’s election.
“And I think there is a question for Rick Perry, who might be more naturally popular among Republicans, whether he is a little less electable than Mitt Romney against President Obama because he is further to the right,” said Fortier.
The attention on Christie, Romney and Perry is overshadowing the other contenders in the Republican race, like Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann. Bachmann has slipped sharply in recent surveys and, this week, she urged young conservatives not to settle for a party nominee who is anything less than a true conservative.
“I am not willing that we settle because you deserve more than a nation that settles,” said Bachmann.
The voting process to choose a Republican Party nominee begins early next year with presidential caucuses in Iowa and the New Hampshire presidential primary election.