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Gallup poll: Mitt Romney waning. Rick Perry surging.

A new survey from Gallup finds Texas Gov. Rick Perry is barely behind longtime fellow Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, with the former pulling in 15 percent support and the former Mass. Gov. gaining 17 percent -- making Romney a tenuous frontrunner. 

Yesterday, we touched on Perry's nascent, shadow operation in Florida, where he nominally leads the pack, according to an American Research Group poll. Like the Florida poll, the national Gallup survey shows Sarah Palin pulling in a good chunk of the vote, 12 percent. Chances that she'll run or stay in the race seem slim at the moment, and that's probably good news for Michele Bachmann, who garners 11 percent nationally.

Still, Gallup found that Perry trails Romney 18-23, without Palin in the race. And Palin would trail Romney 15-23 without Perry.

Says Gallup: "Perry appears to be the strongest potential challenger to Romney at the moment, given the results of these recomputed preferences, trailing Romney by five percentage points, compared with eight- and nine- point deficits for Palin and Giuliani, respectively. Perry is also the only one of the three late-deciders whose support numerically exceeds Bachmann's in these simulations.

"The fact that Romney is the leader in all three scenarios indicates that at this point he is the nominal front-runner regardless of who else enters the race."

Taken all together, recent survey results indicate there are two general types of putative Republican candidates: Romney and everyone else. The more crowded the field, the better for Romney, who has been essentially running for four years and hasn't cracked more than a third of the vote in most major polls.

What makes a Perry candidacy so deadly to Romney is that, as a Texas Republican told us, he appeals to both establishment and tea-party Republicans. Oh yeah, and jobs grew in Texas during the recession, while Romney's job record isn't as brag-worthy. 

Perry also tells a good rags-to-sort-of-riches story in Texas Monthly.

Some Florida Republicans allied with other candidates say Perry is probably a flash in the pan, that it's too late because he hasn't lined up the money people and fundraised early enough. That's probably wishful thinking from the hater posse. With Perry's poll numbers, he has an estimated $4 million of buzz without having raised or spent a cent. And chances are, he can raise a good $6 million in a full quarter.

But that's speculation. Then again, so are all the polls at this point.