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The Brief: Aug. 25, 2011

The polls have confirmed it: Rick Perry's the Republican front-runner. But now comes the real battle — for momentum.

Gov. Rick Perry enters the Electric Park Ballroom in Waterloo, Iowa, during a three-day campaign swing through the Hawkeye S…

The Big Conversation:

The polls have confirmed it: Rick Perry's the Republican front-runner. But now comes the real battle — for momentum.

A Gallup poll released Wednesday was the latest recent national GOP survey to show Perry not only ahead of, but trouncing, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who for months has been called the race's presumptive leader.

The Gallup poll, strikingly, showed Perry not only leading Romney by double digits, 29 percent to 17 percent, but also dominating his opponents across all income groups and education levels, according to National Journal. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul placed third to Perry and Romney with 13 percent.

Despite Perry's swift and dramatic surge, though, it may be premature to deem him the outright front-runner.

As Nate Silver of The New York Times' FiveThirtyEight blog notes, Rudy Giuliani at this point in 2007 was leading by about the same margin as Perry, and Fred Thompson was polling in second.

Voters also have yet to see Perry spar with his Republican rivals. He's taken veiled shots at Romney, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman recently suggested that he was unelectable, but Perry, as Politico confirms today, won't stand alongside his fellow candidates on a debate stage until Sept. 7.

And then there's the expectations game. Having claimed a large lead so quickly, Perry must perform like a front-runner — avoiding gaffes, running past his opponents and surpassing fundraising goals — to sustain momentum and avoid the perception that he peaked early. Then again, a double-digit lead is a good place from which to start. As Public Policy Polling pollster Tom Jensen tells Politico, “I definitely think things will slow down for him, but when he loses momentum, he’ll be losing it from higher ground."

Culled:

  • Why the hell not, indeed. Gov. Rick Perry just received what's likely to be the most talked-about endorsement he's picked up in Texas yet. Kinky Friedman, the famed Texas humorist who ran as an independent against Perry for in 2006, has endorsed the governor in a Daily Beast column, citing Perry's economic bona fides, his support for Israel his and view that there are "too damn many laws, taxes, regulations, panels, committees, and bureaucrats." Why the sudden love for Perry, for whom Friedman has had little over the years? "These days, I would support Charlie Sheen over Obama," he writes.
  • The Austin American-Statesman reports today that parole officials are set to deport some of the state's 11,000 foreign convicts — a move that could save taxpayers up to about $200 million. It remains unclear, though, how many of the 11,000 convicts will be deported and how soon the deportations will occur.

“I will support the Republican nominee, whoever it is, because I know we can do better for our economy.” — U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to Fox Business Network on Wednesday

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