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Is Rick Perry a real front-runner, or the next Michele Bachmann?

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Steve Helber/AP

(Read caption) Republican Presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, gestures during a speech before a Virginia Republican fundraising event in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, Sept. 14.

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Is Rick Perry a real front-runner – or the next Michele Bachmann?

By that we mean, is he a solid contender for the GOP nomination who will maintain his front-runner status into the primaries next year, or is he the latest in a series of hopefuls, such as Representative Bachmann (R) of Minnesota, who have had a turn at the top of the polls and then regressed?

We ask that question in part because the Texas governor is set to meet another one of those short-time wonders, Donald Trump, Wednesday in New York, according to ABC News.

Remember the heady days of “Trump 2012?” For a brief shining moment the Donald led some GOP polls. But he kept yammering on about how President Obama might not have been born in the US.

It turned out his energy policy was based on the US simply seizing Iraq’s oil for its own. The poll numbers deflated, and Trump decided to not throw his hair into the ring, disappointing comedians across the nation.

As Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show" noted at the time, “I could’ve put another wing on my house” if Trump had run, due to the glorious amount of material he would have provided.

Sorry – we’ll get back to an actual politician now.

Governor Perry took a beating at the CNN/Tea Party debate in Tampa, Fla., on Monday night. Might Mitt Romney’s attack on his position on Social Security, and Bachmann’s and Rick Santorum’s attacks on his effort to require Texas girls to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted disease, combine to reduce Perry’s popularity?

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Don’t bet the ranch on it.

“There is something muscular, tough, almost animalistic about Perry that seems to be resonating among Republicans – at least for the moment,” writes David Gergen Wednesday in an opinion piece for CNN. Mr. Gergan has been an adviser to four presidents.

Gergen goes on to compare Perry and Romney with Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, who ran against each other in 1980, before they combined in a single ticket.

Reagan didn’t know policy details like Bush did, but he knew how to lead, according to Gergen.

“The tendency to write off Perry – especially among the Eastern elite – is a mistake,” writes Gergen.

A Gallup survey released Tuesday backs up this assertion, as it shows that GOP voters remain enthusiastic about Perry’s candidacy. His Positive Intensity Score, at 24, is about as high as it’s been in recent months.

(Gallup creates this measure by subtracting the percentage of voters with unfavorable views of a candidate from the percentage with a highly favorable view. The most recent poll was largely taken prior to Monday’s debate.)

“With just under five months remaining before Republican primary voters start casting ballots for the 2012 Republican nomination, Perry continues to generate more positive intensity from Republicans who know him than any other announced or potential candidate Gallup tracks,” writes analyst Lydia Saad.

Yes, Perry is taking a lot of flak at the moment, but think of it this way: The criticism is a bit contradictory. On Social Security, Romney is attacking Perry for being too far right. On other issues, Bachmann, former Sen. Rick Santorum, and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas are attacking Perry for being too far left.

Bachmann asserted in the debate Monday that Perry used the power of his office to order the controversial vaccinations.

“We are in danger of sending a candidate who does not adhere to our shared values to face Barack Obama,” she said.

Mr. Paul and others have pointed out that Perry was a Democrat until 1989 and ran the 1988 presidential campaign of Al Gore in Texas.

“It is time that Governor Perry is known for what he really is: not a longtime conservative governor, but a big-government moderate who has made a career of supporting harmful policies during his tenure as governor,” said former Pennsylvania Senator Santorum on Tuesday.

For his part, Perry was skating above the criticism on Wednesday. He addressed students at Liberty University in Virginia, a conservative Christian institution, telling them that they need to raise their voices to ensure that Washington politicians don’t tell them how to run their lives.

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