A new CNN poll shows Mitt Romney running strongest against Barack Obama on a number of criteria.
In a general election matchup, he's essentially even with Obama at 47%-48%, while the POTUS beats Rick Perry by 5% and the rest of the field by more.
But more significantly for Romney.
Six in ten Americans say Romney has the personal qualities a president should have, compared to only 45 percent who feel that way about Perry.
Forty-six percent of Americans agree with Romney on issues. "That doesn't sound like much, but it's far better than the 39 percent who say they agree with Perry. That 46 percent is also ten points higher than the number who agreed with Romney in his first run for the White House in 2008.
Some other key numbers from the poll.
a. Perry still leads primary race.
Despite Romney's better general election numbers, Rick Perry is still the guy more Republicans want.
1. Rick Perry 28%
2. Mitt Romney 21%
3. Newt Gingrich 10%
4. Herman Cain, Sarah Palin, and Ron Paul 7%
7. Michele Bachmann 4%
8. Rick Santorum 3%
9. Jon Huntsman 1%
b. Gingrich's rise.
He's doubled his support since earlier this month, and not surprisingly, that's coincided with three strong debate performances. This is the way Newt wanted to campaign -- via high-profile TV appearances. It's not enough to win the nomination. But it is enough to get people talking again about how smart he is, which he loves.
c. Bachmann's fade.
It continues. Herman Cain nearly doubles her, as Bachmann bleeds support to Perry. Strangely enough, this is as strong as Cain has polled all summer in CNN surveys, showing that Cain supporters haven't been swayed by Perry, and appear more devoted to their guy than Bachmann fans to their candidate.
d. Palin crashes.
In less than one month, she's gone from 15% to 7%. I'm one of those who thinks that actually makes her more likely to run. She can't abide by dismissive sneers about her viability. Politics is intensely personal for her.
General election matchups:
a. Barack Obama 58% Sarah Palin 37%
b. Barack Obama 51% Ron Paul 47%
c. Barack Obama 51% Rick Perry 46%
d. Barack Obama 49% Mitt Romney 48%
On the question of whether the following candidates have leadership qualities necessary to be president...
a. Michele Bachmann -20%
b. Sarah Palin -41%.
c. Ron Paul -7%.
d. Rick Perry = even.
e. Mitt Romney +28%.
Romney's lead here is remarkably large. As Karl Rove has consistently explained, one of the reasons W. Bush got reelected was because, even though many disagreed with him on the issues, more thought he was a strong leader.
Romney's performance on this measure is boffo, and again, points toward him being the most electable of the current crop.