Mitt Romney poses for photographs on stage September 7 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Editor’s Note: Erick Erickson is a CNN contributor and editor of

Story highlights

Erick Erickson: For Mitt Romney, it's bad enough that he is behind Rick Perry

What's worse is that voters suspect Romney won't fight for their beliefs, Erickson says

He says tea party voters think Romney is a flip-flopper

Erickson: Romney's path to victory would have to overcome his reversals

CNN  — 

There is a lot of buzz about CNN’s new poll that shows Rick Perry seemingly solidifying his lead among Republican in the primary contest. Forty-two percent of Republicans think Rick Perry has the best shot at beating Barack Obama. Forty-five percent of seniors support Perry compared to 21% for Mitt Romney.

There is one question that is not getting as much attention, though in my mind it explains every other question. CNN asked, “Which Republican candidate is most likely to fight for their beliefs?” The winner? Rick Perry with 29%, followed by Sarah Palin at 23%. Mitt Romney? Michele Bachmann? They tied at 11%.

The answer to the question really says very little about Rick Perry and a great deal about Mitt Romney. It plays into the “opportunist” critique that many primary voters have of Romney.

In his book, Mitt Romney compared those responsible for the “looming bankruptcy” of Social Security to people engaged in a criminal enterprise, but this year he attacks Rick Perry for calling it a Ponzi scheme.

Erick Erickson

Pro-life voters are still skeptical of Romney’s conversion. Fiscal conservatives are skeptical of any governor of Massachusetts. Tea party activists joke that the only issue Romney has not flipped on is the one he should — “Romneycare.”

In a year when Republicans want a fighter and are deeply skeptical of the “establishment” that told conservatives the congressional GOP would cut $100 billion from the continuing resolution earlier this year, then only really cut around $34 billion, the base wants someone who will actually fight for what they believe in.

As Romney amps up his attacks on Rick Perry and the race increasingly becomes a two-man race, Romney’s path to victory is across a very tight rope with his accumulated history of positions piled high on his shoulders.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Erick Erickson.