The GOP horse race has shifted, at least in two key states. Mitt Romney's exploitation of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's vulnerabilities on Social Security and in-state tuition for young illegal immigrants, and the southerner's weak debate performances appear to be taking their toll. New polls show the former Massachusetts governor now leading in Florida and Iowa.
A new Public Policy Polling survey of Florida shows Romney with a six percentage point lead, 30 percent to 24 percent. Newt Gingrich is at 10 percent.
Meanwhile, an American Research Group poll of likely attendees at January's Iowa caucuses puts Romney at 21 percent and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Perry at 15 percent and 14 percent, respectively, a virtual tie.
An excerpt from Public Policy Polling's report which links Perry's slide (he led Romney in previous polling) partly to his debate performance:
... We started this poll on Thursday night before the debate and in those interviews the race was neck and neck with Romney at 33% and Perry at 31%. But in interviews done Friday-Sunday Romney's lead expanded to double digits at 29-19. More telling might be what happened to Perry's favorability numbers after the debate- on Thursday night he was at 63/23 with Florida Republicans. Friday-Sunday he was at 48/36. Perry's poor performance may or may not prove to be a game changer nationally but it definitely appears to have hurt his image in the key state where it occurred.
Perry was down in Florida even before the debate though and one thing that may be hurting him is his comments on Social Security. 49% of voters disagree with his 'Ponzi Scheme' comments to only 37% who agree and with the folks who dissent from that statement his deficit against Romney goes all the way up to 19 points at 35-16. It's also noteworthy that seniors are the age group where Perry faces the biggest deficit to Romney at 34-26.