After Monday’s debate, the pundits’ consensus (and ours) was the two big winners were Mitt Romney and Michelle Bachmann. Now the polls are coming and . . . wow:
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney continues to lead the race for the Republican nomination, but Michele Bachmann has surged into second place following her Monday night entry into the campaign.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely GOP Primary Voters, taken following the candidates’ Monday night debate, shows Romney earning 33% support, with Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann a surprise second at 19%. Georgia businessman Herman Cain is in third place with 10% of the vote.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich picks up nine percent (9%) support, followed by Texas Congressman Ron Paul with seven percent (7%), ex-Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty at six percent (6%) and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum also earning six percent (6%). Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who did not participate in the debate but is expected to announce his candidacy on Tuesday, gets two percent (2%) of the vote. Eight percent (8%) prefer some other candidate.
First, the poll shows Romney with the highest level of support I’ve seen this campaign season. A weak frontrunner? Not according to this poll.
Second, rarely do you see as massive a poll surge as Michele Bachmann enjoyed — from nowhere to a strong 19%. As my colleague Jordan Sekulow observes, “Michele Bachmann has arrived.”
Even James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal (not exactly Mitt’s biggest fan) sees Romney and Bachmann shaping up to offer Obama a far greater test than he faced in 2008:
This column has no brief for Romney, but strictly as political analysis, we’d say a Romney-Bachmann ticket looks more formidable than the McCain-Palin ticket that lost in 2008. Romney, unlike McCain, has executive and private-sector experience. He’s in his mid-60s, old enough that his maturity makes for an attractive contrast with Barack Obama, but not so old that anyone will wonder if he’s up to the job.
I still hope to win over Taranto (and the rest of the WSJ crew), but thanks to the first debate — and Mitt’s strong fundraising start — the sneering seems to have stopped and his support is building.
It’s been a good week. But there are many, many weeks still to go.