The fact that Perry is now dominating in South Carolina, a conservative state, is probably not news to campaign watchers. The PPP survey shows him with 36 percent of the potential vote, followed by Romney with 16 and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) at 13, the second poll in five days to show Perry with a big lead. But the crosstabs show that Romney, the presumed "moderate" candidate (or at least more moderate), cannot even defend his own turf in the middle of the GOP electorate in a conservative state. He faces an implacable right wing of the party, which is fully in Perry's column, and moderate sect that is willing to support Perry despite his more strident views.
OK see, here's the thing: what Republican moderates? Can you really consider anyone flocking to Rick Perry's banner a moderate at this point? Can you consider a Republican in South Carolina to be a moderate at this point, even? Let's take a look at the PPP poll a little more closely.
Only 25% of SC Republicans believe in global warming and 61% said no. Even more staggering, only 32% believe in evolution while again a majority, 57%, say they don't believe in it. Of the Republicans who do believe in global warming, some 51% have a favorable view of Rick Perry. Of those who believe in evolution, 60% have a favorable view of Rick Perry. They aren't bothered in the least by the fact Perry has publicly denied either exists. So again I say, what moderates?
And when it comes to those voters who like the Tea Party, Perry dominates, one of many examples in the data showing he's sewing up the conservative vote in the early going. South Carolina GOP voters like the Tea Party at 71 percent clip, against only 13 percent who don't, so it's an enormous cross section of voters in the primary. Perry is viewed favorably by those who like the Tea Party (73 - 9) and spilts fairly evenly with those who don't (42 - 46), thus locking up his base. But Romney actually has higher unfavorable ratings among voters who also see the Tea Party negatively, 40 percent, than he does of those GOP voters who actually like the conservative movement, 33 percent. Perry then builds an insurmountable lead among the large sample of Tea Party supporters, of which he is the first choice of 41 percent, versus Romney's take of 27 percent of the Tea Party haters. Even among those who aren't fans of the Tea Party, Perry manages to come in second, with 16 percent.
If 71% of South Carolina Republicans like the Tea Party, they're not moderates in any way shape or form. Rick Perry is doing well precisely because he is an anti-science, anti-choice knuckle-dragger, and that plays in the Palmetto State, period.
Anyone who expected Mitt Romney to do well in South Carolina needs their head examined.