WASHINGTON - Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s surge to the front of the GOP presidential pack has Jewish Republicans reckoning with a field that suddenly looks much different than it did just a few weeks ago.

According to the latest Gallup poll, 29 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents favor Perry, with 17 percent supporting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the previous front-runner.

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Romney, seen as the business-friendly favorite of establishment Republicans, has been popular with Jewish donors to the GOP. But while Perry’s harder-edged conservatism and religion-tinged rhetoric may make him a tougher sell to centrists, prominent Jewish GOPers say he’ll have little trouble courting Republican Jews who are hungry for a victory in 2012.

“I think it’s safe to say that everyone, Jews included, was surprised” to see Perry eclipse Romney, said Tevi Troy, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a former liaison to the Jewish community in George W. Bush’s White House.

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