According to a McClatchy-Marist poll from Wednesday, Texas Governor Rick Perry is the Tea Party favorite to be president of the Untied States in 2012.

Perry has not made any announcement of running as of yet, but he comes in above Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann and the others either announced or mulling still.

The poll shows that Perry garners 20% support with Mitt Romney coming in second at 17%. Palin comes in third at 16% while Michele Bachmann rings in at 12%.

Still, I am always suspicious about polls of “the Tea Party.” The problem is, there is no real criteria for being a Tea Partier. With Republicans and Democrats, even with Independents, we have long accepted ideas of what being “one of those” means. But we have no such criteria for “being” a Tea Partier. Further, there is no official way to decide if a person claiming to be a Tea Partier is one. At least with Dems and Repubs we have registration and history to judge claims by, but there are no ways to determine what a Tea Partier is.

As to Republicans, this poll finds their support differing from the so-called Tea Party voters. Respondents to the poll claiming to be Republicans chose Romney as the number one guy at 21%. Perry came in second at 15%, Rudy Giuliani came in at 12%, and Sarah Palin hit the 11% mark with GOPers.

All of this is bad news for Tim Pawlenty. The guy just can’t seem to get any traction at all. Not one of the poll’s categories gave Pawlenty more than a 6% rate of support.

As to Rick Perry I have one very big knock on him. In 1988 he was a heavy supporter of Al Gore for president! He even chaired Gore’s 1988 campaign in Texas. You see Perry was a Democrat until 1989. I have a problem understanding how an adult can go from supporting an extremist, nut like Al Gore one year and the next suddenly become a conservative Republican the next.

Still, he has been a very, very successful Governor and has led a state that has become number one in the country for job creation. He has a lot going for him, for sure.