Perry, the Texas governor, calls Social Security a "Ponzi scheme" for younger workers that needs to be fundamentally revamped for future recipients. One in five Republicans say that position makes them more likely to support him; one in five say it makes them less likely to do so. However, by more than 2-1, 37%-17%, Republicans predict Perry's position will hurt rather than help his chances of being elected president.
There is evidence they are right: By close to 3-1, 32%-12%, independents who were polled say Perry's stance makes them less likely to support him. By almost 4-1, 40%-11%, they say it would make it harder for him to win the White House.
"It's not going to help him in the primary, and it would indeed hurt him in November," warns Charles Black, a veteran Republican strategist who hasn't endorsed any of the candidates. "I do think if you criticize the Social Security program but have a solution that makes sense and that would preserve benefits for the currently retired and those near retirement, that it's not necessarily a political liability in the general election. But it looks to me like he has some work to do on the issue."
The electability issue — being pressed by Romney — could be "deadly," Black says, because Republicans "definitely want somebody that can beat the president."