Mitt Romney currently has a six point lead over Rick Perry among Florida Republican primary voters. From PPP:

Mitt Romney continues to lead the way in Florida with 30% to 24% for Perry, 10% for Gingrich, 8% for Ron Paul, 7% for Herman Cain, 6% for Michele Bachmann, 3% for Jon Huntsman, 2% for Rick Santorum, and 1% for Gary Johnson.

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Perry was down in Florida even before the debate though and one thing that may be hurting him is his comments on Social Security. 49% of voters disagree with his ‘Ponzi Scheme’ comments to only 37% who agree and with the folks who dissent from that statement his deficit against Romney goes all the way up to 19 points at 35-16.  It’s also noteworthy that seniors are the age group where Perry faces the biggest deficit to Romney at 34-26.

Romney’s lead in Florida is important for two reason. First it shows that Romney’s attacks on Perry for calling Social Security a “Ponzi Scheme” is working. Despite the Republican party’s rightward shift, older Republicans still like their government-run Social Security. Expect to hear a lot more about it in the months to come.

The other reason Romney’s lead in the Sunshine State is important is that Florida’s state legislature is determined to have one of the earliest primaries. While national polls provide some important information, early state polling is what matters most. The Republican primary isn’t one national event but a series of state by state contests set out over months. An early win in a big state like Florida can provide a candidate with critical momentum heading into the later contests.