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CNN Poll: Perry opens wide lead on Romney

Hours before eight Republicans face off tonight in another key debate, the CNN/ORC International poll shows Texas Gov. Rick Perry leading over rival Mitt Romney, 30%-18%.

And Rick Perry is viewed as having the best chance to defeat President Obama next year according to more than four in 10 GOP, while 26% says Romney can beat Obama.

In the CNN poll, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin comes in third with 15%. She has said she will say by the end of September whether she’ll run for president in 2012. Texas Rep. Ron Paul is next with 12%.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann is at 4% in the poll, in another sign of her slide since Perry entered the race — the same day she won the Iowa presidential straw poll.

Perry’s electability “may go a very long way toward explaining his rise in the polls, since three-quarters of all Republicans say they would prefer a candidate who can beat President Obama over one who agrees with them on major issues,” CNN polling director Keating Holland says.