A new national survey from Public Policy Polling (D) has a shocking message for the Republican primary race: Michele Bachmann leads Mitt Romney in a two-way race, and also edges ahead in the multi-candidate race without Sarah Palin in it.
In an initial field, including Sarah Palin: Romney 20%, Bachmann 16%, Palin 12%, Perry 11%, Cain 10%, Paul 9%, Gingrich 6%, Pawlenty 5%, Huntsman 2%.
Then in a second question, without Palin in the race: Bachmann 21%, Romney 20%, Perry 12%, Cain 11%, Paul 9%, Gingrich 7%, Pawlenty 5%, and Huntsman 3%.
Finally, a two-way race with Bachmann and Romney: Bachmann 44%, Romney 41%.
In the previous poll from a month ago Bachmann was much further back in the low teens, and Herman Cain was the second-place candidate against Romney. There was no direct two-way question.
The survey of 730 likely GOP primary voters was conducted from July 15-17, and has a ±3.6% margin of error.
This later question, listed after the horse-races, shows just how much trouble Romney could continue to encounter with the GOP base: “Would you be willing or unwilling to vote for a Presidential candidate who supported a law at the state level mandating that people have health insurance?”
The answer: 17% willing, 66% unwilling, and 17% undecided.
Romney, of course, passed the health care mandate in Massachusetts — and whether he likes it or not, it became the template for the federal health reform passed by President Obama, which conservatives refer to (erroneously) as socialism. Since then, he has tried to massage the issue, by arguing that health care reform is largely a state matter, and a conservative would respect states’ rights on the mandate while allowing other states to come up with their own solutions.
This poll, however, shows just how big a mountain to climb this could be. On the other hand, this would seem to suggest that with Romney at 41% in a two-way race, he is at least picking up a few voters who say they are not willing to vote for a candidate who supported a state level mandate. Then again, maybe those voters haven’t seen any political attacks on Romney yet.
And for her part, Bachmann has taken the 180-degree opposite view to Romney on the mandate — she’s declared that it is unconstitutional at the state level, too.