By Peter J. Smith

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 3, 2011 ( – Texas Gov. Rick Perry has not declared his candidacy yet for the GOP presidential nomination, but political buzz around his expected jump into the race has already catapulted the pro-life leader into contention with pro-life front-runners Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann.

Perry, a Texas Republican who embraces the 10th amendment as a check against federal overreach into state and individuals’ affairs, is expected to announce an official presidential campaign between August 15 and August 30, according to RealClearPolitics.

The GOP field has many candidates in the race, but GOP voters still have not coalesced behind a single candidate and many have expressed dissatisfaction with the current field.

Perry has entered the field as a pro-life candidate, who believes that the 10th amendment guarantees that states, not the federal government, retain their police power under the US Constitution to establish criminal laws on abortion and regulate marriage within their borders.

The Texas governor’s “states-rights” position is similar to that of Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who insists that Congress has the explicit authority in the US Constitution to withdraw the federal courts’ jurisdiction from cases involving state abortion laws. Paul states an act of Congress could effectively overturn Roe v. Wade, but the idea has not gained traction in pro-life circles.

Perry later clarified, after questions were raised by the Family Research Council and the Susan B. Anthony List, that he would favor federal amendments on marriage and human life, as constitutional, state-based answers to the challenges of same-sex “marriage” and abortion.

According to new polling by Rasmussen, Perry’s entrance into the race significantly reduces the lead of front-runner Mitt Romney. Romney has had to fight doubts among social conservatives about his commitment to the life and marriage issues, since his record as governor in socially liberal Massachusetts is thin.

A July 28 Rasmussen poll of 1000 likely GOP primary voters shows Perry in striking distance of Romney.  The former Massachusetts governor gains 22 percent support, followed by Perry at 18 percent. Minnesota Congresswoman and Tea Party Caucus leader Michele Bachmann follows close behind in third place at 16 percent.

Following behind are Texas Congressman Ron Paul at 10 percent, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain at 9 percent, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 6 percent.

Cain has held steady near the 10 percent range since a poor debate showing in New Hampshire and some campaign gaffes over whether he would appoint Muslims to high office. However, Cain made a strong showing at the Western Conservative Summit caucus winning 48 percent of 508 votes, besting Perry, who came in second at 13 percent.

Rasmussen found that Perry and Bachmann both draw from the 39 percent of sampled GOP voters who identified with the fiscal conservative Tea Party movement. Perry draws 28 percent, while Bachmann draws 22 percent.

Sixteen percent of Tea Party members support Romney, and 13 percent support Cain.

However, the 43 percent of GOP voters not affiliated with the Tea Party broke strongly for Romney at 29 percent, followed by Perry at 13 percent, then Bachmann at 11 percent and also for Paul at 10 percent.

Another survey by Rasmussen showed that if the field were restricted to a race with just Romney, Bachmann, and Perry, the Texas governor would come in third. Romney stays ahead with 34 percent of the GOP vote, while Bachmann garners 27 percent, followed by Perry at 26 percent.

Perry’s delayed entrance in the race, however, could end up helping Bachmann. The Congresswoman has devoted time in Iowa to winning the Ames caucus, which Romney is not participating in. A win in Ames could help Bachmann take a firmer grip of the Tea Party mantle and consolidate more GOP conservatives into her camp as she narrows the gap with Romney.