Split Decision? Perry Leads in Florida, Romney Ahead in California

Florida and California are likely to have key roles in the nominating process in the 2012 GOP race, and two polls released yesterday resulted in a split decisition between Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney

In an Insider Advantage poll in Florida, Perry was at 29 percent to Romney’s 20 percent. 

Among Hispanic Republicans who were polled in Florida, Perry was at 48 percent to Romney’s 12.7 percent. This is perhaps due to Perry’s signing the Texas DREAM Act that gave in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants. While Romney and Michele Bachmann have attacked Perry for what they consider his softness on immigration, his immigration record may help him with Hispanic Republicans and may make it harder for Democrats to paint Perry as being harsh on immigration in a general election.

In California, Romney got 28 percent of those surveyed compared to Perry’s 20 percent, according to a Field poll

According to the Field poll, 22 percent of California Republican primary voters say they identify “a lot” with the Tea Party movement and another 39 percent of those surveyed say they identify with the Tea Party movement “somewhat.” 

Among those who identified with the Tea Party, Perry led Romney, 33 percent to 23 percent. Among those who did not identify with the Tea Party, Romney had a 13 point advantage over Perry. 

Perry has closed the gap quickly in both states. Around the time of Perry’s announcement, Perry trailed Romney in Florida and Romney had nearly a 20 point lead in California, which is now down to an 8 point lead. 

Also of note: two-thirds of those surveyed in California did not identify with evangelical Christianity, and Romney held a considerable lead among those voters over Perry in California. 

These mixed results reflect the greater split among Republican voters between the two front-runners. Perry, with his blunt talk and rhetoric, appeals to more conservative minded voters while Romney’s managerial and nuanced style allows him to appeal to more moderate Republicans. 

Going forward, it will be interesting to see if Perry can cut into Romney’s support among moderate Republicans more than Romney can cut into Perry’s among conservative voters.