DALLAS - A national poll by Rasmussen Reports out Thursday shows Governor Rick Perry leading President Obama for the first time.
Perry garnered 44 percent to the president's 41 percent, with Mr. Obama leading all the other GOP candidates.
This new poll by Rasmussen confirms that the Perry campaign rollout has been near perfect, and that as voters nationwide learn more about him, enough are saying they like what they see.
But in the week ahead, Perry faces a huge test that could trip him up.
At a San Antonio stop labeled by the governor's office as an official state event, Perry awarded a Texas Legislative Medal of Honor to the family of a marine who died in the Vietnam war, Roy Cisneros.
Veterans are important voting bloc, especially in South Carolina, one of the lead primary states. Perry, an Air Force veteran, touted his support for vets programs.
"[W]e owe it to those coming home to make sure we expend every resource necessary to help them heal as necessary, reconnect with family and friends, and live productive, fulfilling lives," Perry said.
But becoming the front runner means Perry becomes a big target.
And in South Carolina, a political action committee supporting GOP rival Michele Bachmann started airing the first attack ad against Perry.
It criticizes state spending and debt under the governor.
A charge the Perry campaign called "false" and said "misrepresents" his record.
But Perry, who hasn't been in a candidates' debate since the Belo Debate in January, 2010, better get ready for more.
Next Wednesday, he'll appear in his first debate with the other Republican candidates at the Reagan Presidential Library in California. Bob Lowry, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, said that may be an opportunity for other candidates to slow Perry's gains.
"The other thing it does is make him a real target for the other candidates," Lowry said. "They probably know they need to start digging into him fast, before he really gets too far ahead."
Lowry said Perry must appear calm under fire and in command of issues, especially those he's unfamiliar with, like foreign policy.
"I think he's really got to show that he can talk substance, and try to stay away from, you know, some of the more inflammatory things," Lowry said.
Perry's campaign said he's deep in debate prep.
Perry took no questions from reporters at the San Antonio event.
But he'll get them next Wednesday at the California debate and then at another one in Florida on September 22.