Perry’s Exit Could Be Romney’s Gain (But Not Much Gain)

Now that Rick Perry has dropped out of the presidential race, where are his Perry supporters likely to go?  Nate Silver has one take on this here.  Here is another snapshot from Lynn Vavreck and me, using a Jan. 14-17 YouGov poll.

For the plurality of Perry voters (43%), their second choice  is Mitt Romney.  Gingrich comes in a close second (29%).  A table is here (pdf). This pattern is evident among all voters except those who prefer Ron Paul.  Romney’s status as a second choice for so many voters is evidence of his inevitability, as we wrote about last week here.

What’s even more interesting: two weeks ago, in the January 7-10 poll, Perry supporters tended to prefer Santorum as their second choice (43% chose him).  Another table is here. The intervening week, during which Romney looked ever more like the eventual nominee, led some supporters to jump on the Romney bandwagon.  It may not feel like Romney has the momentum in the race—based on Gingrich’s surge in SC, for example—but these data suggest that, under the surface, he does.

Perhaps this will change with Perry’s endorsement of Gingrich.  But regardless of which candidate benefits from Perry’s exit, it’s important to remember that very few people were actually Perry supporters.  So any benefits for the remaining candidates will be small.

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

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John Sides

John Sides is an associate professor of political science at George Washington University.