Although Rick Perry's general election poll standing in Texas is less than impressive Republican primary voters in the state have warmed up to him over the first six months of the year and he's now the clear favorite in the state.
31% of Republicans say Perry would be their first choice as nominee next year compared to 15% for Mitt Romney, 11% for Michele Bachmann, 9% for Ron Paul and Sarah Palin, 8% for Newt Gingrich, 6% for Herman Cain, and 2% for Tim Pawlenty.
Perry's strength with GOP voters in his home state is a new development. When PPP looked at Texas in January only 9% of Republicans said Perry was their top choice, putting him in 6th place overall and well behind Mike Huckabee's 24%. But Perry's shown a lot more interest in a bid since then, Huckabee's out of the picture, and Gingrich who was in second place at 17% in January has tanked. Perry has likely picked up a lot of the lost support of his fellow southern candidates in the race.
If Perry ends up not running there's basically a three way tie at the top in the state with Romney getting 17% to 16% for Bachmann, 14% for Palin, 11% for Gingrich, 10% for Paul, 8% for Cain, and 5% for Jon Huntsman. Those numbers show what's becoming a pretty common pattern- Bachmann leads Romney 22-15 with the 'very conservative' voters who constitute the largest segment of the Republican electorate. But Romney's strength in the middle- leading Bachmann 19-9 with moderates and 21-13 with 'somewhat conservative' voters gives him the overall advantage.
One thing very clear in the Texas numbers- Republicans there don't care for Ron Paul. Just 37% hold a favorable opinion of him to 45% with a negative one. It's pretty much a given that Paul's chances at the nomination are close to zero but the fact that his fellow GOP voters don't even like him takes Paul's troubles to a different level.
If David Dewhurst enters the Republican Senate field this month, as expected, he will start out as a pretty strong favorite. 40% of primary voters say he would be their top choice to 11% each for Ted Cruz and Dan Patrick, 5% for Tom Leppert, and 3% for Elizabeth Ames Jones. Although there's been a lot of speculation about Dewhurst perhaps becoming a Tea Party target he starts out very strong with the far right, getting 42% of the 'very conservative' vote. That's higher than his overall level of support. Maybe he'll have trouble with those voters down the road but it's not something that starts out as a problem for him.
If by some chance Dewhurst doesn't end up running the field is about as wide open as it could possibly be. Cruz would lead with 16% to 13% for Patrick, 12% for Leppert, and 11% for Jones.
Full results here