The race for the GOP nomination is on. The winner gets a shot at Barack Obama, whose poll numbers are falling faster than a lead balloon. For the longest time, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was the frontrunner, with Rep. Michele Bachmann gaining ground. However, since Texas Gov. Rick Perry entered the race, he has quickly climbed in the polls and made his way from outsider to leader.

A new Gallup Poll released on Wednesday shows that Perry has quickly overtaken Romney as the frontrunner of the race:

Perry: 29%
Romney: 17%
Paul: 13%
Bachmann: 10%
Cain: 4%
Gingrich: 4%
Santorum: 3%
Huntsman: 1%

The Gallup report states that Perry “is a strong contender among key Republican subgroups.”

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’s support is also above average among religious Republicans.

Rasmussen Reports also released a poll out on Wendesday showing Perry within the margin of error in a head-to-head match-up against Obama, 43%-40%. In other match-ups, Obama leads 43%-39% against Bachmann and 46%-38% against Romney. Keep in mind that these results are actually quite good. Obama is the incumbent, and what people hear about him is what the media want people to hear. How many people are hearing about the GOP candidates right now?

Last week, Rasmussen’s GOP poll also showed Perry as the frontrunner. In that poll, Perry led Romney 29% to 18%, with Bachmann picking up 13%.

This marks a significant jump in support for Perry, who officially entered the race [about 9 days ago] although his candidacy had been rumored for weeks. Just over two weeks ago, a survey of likely primary voters found Romney with 22% support, closely followed by Perry at 18% and Bachman with 16% of the vote.

“Governor Perry is enjoying a bounce from entering the race at precisely the right time”, said Scott Rasmussen. “Now the difficult part begins for the new frontrunner. It’s much easier winning support when people are hoping you will get in the race, than retaining support when you are the frontrunner.”

The GOP contest has already claimed Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and the field may still get a candidate or two as both Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani consider joining the race. Whether you know much about Perry yet or not, my prediction about his impact in the race certainly came true: he’s a game changer. Whether he will sustain this momentum will be seen over the coming months.

So… who is your pick?

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