Romney, Perry among top 2012 Republican primary candidates

The contest for the upcoming 2012 Republican presidential nomination is quickly becoming a two-man race based on recent polling data from USA Today/Gallup, CBS News/NY Times, Bloomberg and CNN. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are distancing themselves from a number of other candidates with some five or six months remaining before the first primaries.

Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul are a distant third, depending on which poll you use and whether you include Sarah Palin as a candidate. As of now, Palin’s intentions remain a mystery.

Candidates Romney and Perry have sparred over Social Security and job creation in recent debates. While campaigning in Iowa earlier this year, Perry said Social Security “is a Ponzi scheme for these young people. The idea that they’re working and paying into Social Security today, that the current program is going to be there for them, is a lie. It is a monstrous lie on this generation, and we can’t do that to them.”

Romney quickly seized on these statements and is framing Social Security as a central issue dividing the two candidates.

Both men are staunchly anti-abortion and deeply religious. Perry is United Methodist, and Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Perry is an adherent of intelligent design, and Romney recently backtracked on his endorsement of evolution and man made climate change. Perry is a global warming skeptic and claims it is a “contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight.” With regards to immigration reform, neither candidate states his views on his website. It’s a controversial subject, and they are sure to draw heavy criticism no matter which side they take.

Romney doesn’t support the Dream Act and has taken shots at Gov. Perry, who supported a version of it in 2001.

Romney also supports building a fence along the border with Mexico while Perry has stated that it is ineffective and too expensive. Look for this issue to draw a tremendous amount of scrutiny going forward as both candidates seek to curry favor with the Latino community.

Brian Matos of Chicago’s Young Republicans said the next election could boil down to the issue of jobs. Matos said that voters will want an answer to this question: Which candidate has the most logical economic policy that is most likely to create the largest number of jobs for middle income and working class Americans?”

Romney and Perry find themselves in the job market as well, currently seeking the highest office in the land.

Six other candidates are also playing catch-up. Time is running out for these people to raise their awareness with the voters and prove themselves as viable candidates.

The next few weeks could find them abandoning their aspirations and jockeying for a possible vice presidential slot or some other high-level position.