Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is pretty invested in going after Rick Perry over Social Security. The Texas governor has been scathing in his criticism of the landmark program — he thinks it’s an unconstitutional “Ponzi scheme” — and the former Massachusetts governor wants GOP voters to believe that’s a disqualifier in a general election.

The problem, as we discussed last week, is that there are competing audiences to consider. Perry is saying what rank-and-file conservatives want to hear, while Romney is telling them to think about what the American mainstream wants to hear. There’s not a lot of overlap.

It’s a tough pitch when so many Republicans agree with Perry, not Romney, on the substance. Consider the new Bloomberg National Poll.

The most publicized campaign issue focusing on Perry — his characterization of Social Security as a “Ponzi Scheme” — has Americans divided. Among all respondents, 46 percent said they agree with the remark, while 50 percent said they disagree.

Among Republicans, 65 percent agree with Perry’s statements about Social Security, while 33 percent disagree. Independents are nearly equally split.

It’s only one poll, of course, but if these numbers are accurate, it’s obviously a problem for Romney. Nearly two-thirds of self-identified Republicans agree with Perry about Social Security? That’s pretty one-sided.

At this week’s debate for GOP presidential candidates, Romney told Perry, “[T]he term ‘Ponzi scheme’ I think is over the top.” To the general public, that’s probably true.

But does Romney fully appreciate just how right-wing Republican voters really are?

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.