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Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is seen during a commercial break at the Iowa GOP/Fox News Debate at the CY Stephens Auditorium in Ames, Iowa, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011.

If history is any indicator, Rick Perry's big lead over former frontrunner Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential race will wane in the coming weeks.

In an article published Thursday, the Washington Post points out the parallels between Perry's strong polling following his late entry into the race and the star-crossed candidacies of Wesley Clark and Fred Thompson in 2004 and 2008, respectively.

"A late entrant into the presidential race whips up all kinds of buzz and jumps into a race where the rest of the field is off to a supposedly lackluster start, only to have his first day on the campaign be his best," Aaron Blake wrote for the Post. "It happened to Wesley Clark in 2004 and Fred Thompson in 2008. But what about Rick Perry in 2012?"

Perry leads Romney, 29-17, in Gallup's August poll. But right after Clark declared his candidacy in September 2003, Gallup had the retired Army general leading eventual Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry, 22-11. And four years ago, Thompson's late announcement of his candidacy surged the actor and former senator to 22 percent support among Republican voters — good for second place at the time behind Rudy Giuliani, but better than eventual Republican nominee Sen. John McCain's 15 percent.

"It's very possible that this Gallup poll will be (Perry's) best one," Blake continued in his Post article. "That's not to say, of course, that he's going to flame out like Clark and Thompson did — just that it won't always be this easy, and he's got plenty of trials ahead."

A day before the Post piece, Nate Silver wrote a thorough analysis for the New York Times detailing how Perry's polling strength could affect Romney's state-by-state strategy. Silver's bottom line: Romney must keep his lead in New Hampshire if he wants to win the Republican nomination.

"The linchpin of (Romney's) strategy has always been New Hampshire," Silver wrote. "If Mr. Romney does not win there, Republicans may decide that although Mr. Perry is not an optimal general election candidate, Mr. Romney has fallen too far behind him and it is best to rally around Mr. Perry rather than having a prolonged and bloody primary battle."

In other polling news, Politico cited the latest Mason-Dixon poll in reporting Thursday that "Mitt Romney holds single-digit leads over primary opponent Rick Perry and general-election rival Barack Obama in the battleground state of Florida."

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