The Pundit-Public Disconnect on Perry

Commentators have been pretty harsh on Rick Perry this week, though he deserves most of the flak after his three consecutive sub-par debate performances. But according to the latest CNN poll, the candidate actually hasn’t lost much ground with GOP voters. While he’s dropped a couple of points and Romney’s gained a couple of points, in the end the Texan is maintaining a comfortable lead:

According to the survey, which was released Monday, 28 percent of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP say they support Perry as their party’s presidential nominee, with Romney at 21 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is at ten percent, with Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who’s making his third bid for the White House, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and radio talk show host Herman Cain, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, all at seven percent. The poll indicates that Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota is at four percent, with former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania at three percent and former Utah Gov. and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman at one percent. …

Of course, not all GOP voters were willing to overlook the debate. It seems likely that it played a role in Perry’s Florida straw poll stumble, and might make it more difficult for him to recover in the state. But based on this poll, it doesn’t appear as if Perry’s damage is fatal — at least not yet.

Could that mean there’s less of an opening for Chris Christie, who started to be courted much more aggressively after Perry’s performance? Obviously, a lot of conservative pundits will still be hoping for a strong candidate like Christie after Perry’s fumbles, but it may not make a difference if voters aren’t interested.