Rick Perry leads Mitt Romney in new Gallup poll of GOP field

In Gallup's first poll of Republican voters since Rick Perry officially joined the 2012 presidential race, the Texas governor has jumped out to lead the pack of contenders for the Republican nomination.

Twenty-nine percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents nationwide told Gallup they are most likely to support Perry, putting him well ahead of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who attracted 17 percent. Gallup polls in May, June and July each had Romney in first place.

After Perry and Romney, Congressman Ron Paul was in third place in the latest poll with 13 percent, followed by Congresswoman Michele Bachmann at 10 percent, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich each at four percent, former Senator Rick Santorum at 3 percent and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman at one percent.

"Perry is a strong contender among key Republican subgroups," Gallup wrote. "Older Republicans and those living in the South show especially strong support for him, at or near 40%. Conservative Republicans strongly favor Perry over Romney, but liberal and moderate Republicans support the two about equally."

Perry led all contenders even when Gallup included Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani in its polling. Palin and Giuliani have both hinted that they may still enter the race.

Gallup found that neither Michele Bachmann nor Ron Paul received a boost from the results of the Iowa Straw Poll on August 13, in which they finished first and second, respectively. In fact, support for Bachmann was slightly higher in Gallup's July poll.

According to The Los Angeles Times, early polling in presidential races is often an "unreliable measure of a candidate’s eventual strength." The Times points out that Giuliani and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both often placed first in polls conducted a year before the 2008 election. Still, the Times agrees with Gallup that Perry's entrance into the race has "shaken up" the contest.

Talking Points Memo reports that Democratic-leaning pollster Public Policy Polling came out with its own poll of the Republican field on Wednesday, with results very similar to Gallup's. In PPP's survey, Perry leads with 33 percent, followed by Romney at 20 percent and Bachmann at 16 percent.

Gallup's poll, released Wednesday, was conducted between August 17 and 21, with a random sample of 1,040 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.