Gallup: Perry leading nationally, Romney second, Paul third

Less than two weeks into his official campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Rick Perry has a 12-point lead over Mitt Romney, according to a nationwide Gallup poll of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents released Wednesday. Perry, the Texas governor, received the support of 29 percent of the poll's respondents.

Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who was in first place in the previous three Gallup surveys this year, slipped to 17 percent in the poll, just four points ahead of Texas Rep. Ron Paul, with 13 percent.

The poll's margin of error is 4 percent.

A closer look at the numbers shows that, similar to recent polls taken in Iowa, Perry's base of support lies with the most conservative voters. Thirty-three percent of self-identifying conservatives said they were most likely to vote for Perry, while 16 percent of those voters backed Romney. Among those who attend church regularly, Perry leads Romney by eight points.

Romney does have a slight edge on Perry among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents on the east coast, and Paul dominates among younger voters, carrying nearly 30 percent of the voters between 18 and 29.