Cain, Romney, Gingrich Nearly Tied In New National Poll

A three-way tie?

Herman Cain is still at the top of the field in a new CBS News national poll of the Republican Presidential field, but his lead has been cut and much of the support he lost seems to have gone to former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich:

In the Republican race for the presidential nomination, Newt Gingrich’s support continues to slowly grow, and he is now tied with Mitt Romney for second place, while Herman Cain just edges both of them out for the top spot. Both Cain and Romney have lost support since late October.

In a new CBS News Poll, 61 percent of Republican primary voters say the sexual harassment accusations against Cain won’t make any difference in their vote, but 30 percent say the charges make them less likely to back him, and that rises to 38 percent among women. Cain has lost support among women since last month – from 28 percent in October to 15 percent now. He has lost ground with conservatives and Tea Party supporters as well.

But the race could still change; seven in 10 Republican primary voters say it is still too early to say for sure which candidate they will support.

The field of Republican candidates now has three candidates within striking distance of each other at the top of the list: with 18 percent, Herman Cain is in the top spot, followed by Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich with 15% each. Support for both Cain and Romney has declined since late last month, and Gingrich is the only one of the top three whose support is steadily – if slowly – on the upswing.

There are no numbers given for any of the other candidates, which leads one to assume that they are all below 10%, including Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann. We also don’t have any of the crosstabs for this poll so it’s hard to tell if this is indicative of a new trend — Rising Newt, Falling Cain we can call it, perhaps — or a statistical blip. If it holds out, though, it looks like a pretty significant drop for Cain. Before today, Cain’s RealClearPolitics average was at 25.2, Gingrich’s was at 12.2 and the last CBS/New York Times Poll had Cain at 25% and Gingrich at 10%. These numbers are also significantly different from the numbers we saw out of NBC News and ABC News, although those polls, unlike this one, were taken before the latest revelations about Herman Cain. Whether it’s indicative of a trend, though, will have to wait for additional polling, some of which we’ll start to see Sunday morning when NBC releases its new poll.

Steve Benen is skeptical like I am, while Jazz Shaw points out what may be the most significant news in the poll:

The other, and perhaps most significant factor here is the massive amount of unrest among the voters. There is virtually no solidification behind any one person as the standard bearer yet. With less than two months until votes are cast in Iowa and New Hampshire, more than 70% of respondents are saying that “it’s still too early to say which candidate they will support.”

That’s not just a few independent leaners sitting on the fence. That’s a huge majority of the primary crowd. Perry seems to be doing the comedy tour circuit to play down debate gaffs and show that he’s got a sense of humor about it all. Cain is sticking to his, “nothing happened, let’s move on” strategy about the harassment allegations, and Newt is… well, he’s just being Newt. For better or worse, the voters seem to be waiting for some sort of Come to Jesus moment when the herd will receive the sign they’re waiting for and begin lining up.

That may never happen. I’m surprised to be saying it, but absent a serious sea change, this thing might actually go deep into the late state primaries if somebody can’t find a way to seize some actual, lasting momentum.

Republican primaries and their delegate allocation rules are structured differently than Democratic primaries (Republicans also don’t have Superdelegates like the DNC does), so it’s not as likely that a Republican primary race could go as long as the Obama-Hillary race did in 2008. It’s not impossible, though, and it all depends on what happens in the early primaries in January. Cain is currently ahead in Iowa, although there are signs that his lead there is slipping in the wake of the sexual harassment stories. If he loses there, then his campaign may be fatally wounded. If New Hampshire is Mitt Romney’s barring an unlikely total collapse, so the best anyone can hope for their is a strong second place. Though he doesn’t say it, this seems to be what Jon Huntsman is hoping for, although I’m not sure how he’d capitalize on a good New Hampshire showing if he got it. Next we’ve got South Carolina, where Cain also still leads. However, if he loses Iowa then he’s likely to slip in South Carolina and a loss there heading in to Florida at the end of the month would be near-fatal. On the other hand, if Gingrich could manage to actually win one of those states, then he becomes a contender.

If things play out like they usually do for Republicans, then we’ll have two main contenders heading into Florida, then we’ll have two contenders, Romney and whoever the not-Romney is. If it turns out that there are two “Not-Romney’s” then that only helps Romney further, allowing him to pull off a victory without even a plurality of the vote. After Florida, there’s nearly a month off before the next round of primaries, which allows Romney time to regroup, raise funds, and prepare for the primaries in big states like California, New York, and Ohio where he’s likely to have an advantage. In the end, I still see the most likely outcome being a Romney victory, but hey, crazier things have happened.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Jay says:

    I’ve said that this GOP pre-primary season is eerily similar to the 2003 Democratic pre-primary season. Lots of candidates, polls all over the place and people with leads that would eventually go nowhere.

    CBS poll in December of 2003 had the following in terms of percentages:

    Dean – 23%
    Clark – 10%
    Lieberman – 10%
    Gephardt – 6%
    Sharpton – 5%
    Kerry – 4%

    I don’t think it will matter much. Romney in all likelihood will be the nominee. The only candidate that really has the money to stay in this thing and make in impact is Perry and he pretty much blew it with that major wreck at the debate the other night.

  2. legion says:

    Mmmmmm…. smells like another “Hate On Romney” day…
    Y’know, if your party is absolutely, consistently unable to field competent candidates for the single most important elected office in the land, even with 4+ years to search and prepare, you have to ask if it’s really a legitimate political party at all anymore.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    The difference is that each of those Democrats — with the exception of Sharpton — was at least a plausible nominee. So if this is history repeating itself then it is following Marx’s old adage that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    With less than two months until votes are cast in Iowa and New Hampshire, more than 70% of respondents are saying that “it’s still too early to say which candidate they will support.”

    Conservative Rick Moran reacts to the primary field – none of the above.

    You have a certified imbecile (Perry). A serial sexual harasser (Cain). A chronic flip flopper (Romney). A man who can’t keep his pants zipped (Gingrich). A lunatic (yes Paulbots – advocating a return to the gold standard is bat guano crazy). A religious zealot (Santorum). A Simon Legree clone (Michele “If anyone will not work, neither should he eat” Bachmann). And a candidate who can’t decide whose side he’s on (Huntsman).

    It is to weep. At exactly the moment in American history when a rational, logical, coherent conservatism is desperately needed to counter the left’s drive to take us over a fiscal and cultural cliff, we not only get candidates who fall short in almost every substantive yardstick one might desire to measure the worthiness of a nominee, we also have conservatives en mass who cheer for ignorance, applaud mediocrity, roar for moral turpitude, and display an appalling lack of respect for basic conservative principles.

  5. Hey Norm says:

    @ MR…
    Not to be critical…but Sharpton a plausible nominee??? Otherwise…yeah, I agree.
    I would have liked to see a Dean presidency. But I’m a native Ver-monster…so I may be biased.
    I am amused that the so-called republicans are going to end up with a nominee they cannot stand….who lost to McCain…another guy they cannot stand…and whoever they pick is going to lose to Obama…a guy they REALLY can’t stand. Sucks to be a Republican.

  6. @Hey Norm: I think you overlooked the rather key phrase “with the exception of” 🙂

  7. Hey Norm says:

    @ SLT…
    Well I’ll be dipped in sh**…I sure enuf’ did.
    Apologies Michael.

  8. PD Shaw says:

    @Jay: I’ll play a bit with the ’03 comparison:

    Perry = Clark in that both came into the race later due to a perceived vacancy in the field, but neither were able to cement a hold on that unrepresented constituency;

    Paul= Lieberman in that both represent an idiosyncratic portion of their party with no real hopes of attracting near-majority support;

    Bachmann = Gephart in that both are from states adjoining Iowa that assumed more local support than their inadequate organizations delivered;

    OR Gingrich = Gephart in that both are national legislative leaders that benefit and suffer from the fact;

    Cain = Sharpton in that both are angling for a media job;

    OR Cain = Dean in that both are new faces that excited their party until . . .

    Romney = Kerry in that both are Presidential-looking straddlers.

  9. Moosebreath says:


    I’d say Huntsman is closer to Lieberman, in that both are moderates who have a history of advocating items which a President of the other party wanted (Homeland Security for Lieberman, stimulus for Huntsman) and whose rhetoric which borrows much from the way the other party approaches issues.

    Paul seems more like Dean, in that they care strongly about issues which the rest of the party does not, and thus get fervent support from a small sector of the party, and look a bit loony to the wider world.

  10. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    Well, as much as Romney is disliked by various segments of the right he’d actually be a very formidable general election candidate. Obama still would be the favorite, especially after this train wreck of a primary, but Obama definitely would need at least to be worried about facing Romney.

    The fact Cain and Gingrich apparently are considered to be serious candidates, however, bodes ill for the future of the country. There’s really no cure for terminally stupid.

  11. john personna says:

    I think Jon Stewart is right to call it for Romney:

    TDS: Indecision 2012 – Mercy Rule Edition

    (that was just sad)

  12. michael reynolds says:

    @Hey Norm:
    Yeah, Norm, how dare you not read every single precious word of mine with the utmost care?

  13. Hey Norm says:

    “…but Obama definitely would need at least to be worried about facing Romney…”

    I think only because of the state of the economy…certainly not because of Romney the candidate. Romney the candidate is easy to dispatch. What’s unknowable is the economy. If UE is down to around 8% and continuing to drop…and we have had a dozen or so months of steady, if slow, growth…who’s to say?
    The US under Obama is doing much better than Japan the UK or the Eurozone. And Romney has yet to come up with a credible explanation of how he would , or could, have done any better. (Same for the rest of the GOP for that matter) In these silly debates with their softball questions Romney has skated. But ultimately he is going to have to do more than just criticize. And the supply-side platitudes he has been offering so far won’t cut it.

  14. Hey Norm says:

    @ MR…
    You are correct…I was only cheating myself out of additional pleasure….

  15. PD Shaw says:

    @Tsar Nicholas II: Huntman = Lieberman is good too, particularly if you engage in a little (unfair) time shifting and compare Lieberman’s support for McCain in ’08 with Huntsman accepting an ambassadorship in the Obama administration.

  16. @Moosebreath: Disagree on Paul = Dean comparison —

    Dean with the exception of one issue (anti-Iraq War) was a fairly standard issue moderate to liberal Democrat — he was well within the long term mainstream of Democratic policy and politics. Paul has not been within the mainstream of GOP politics.

    Better bet would be Paul = Kucinich + e (where e equals error term) where each have an ideological fringe base in the party that they can reliable stroke for volunteers, activism and donations (Paul better than the Elf) but can’t mobilize past 5% to 10%.

  17. MBunge says:

    @Hey Norm: “I think only because of the state of the economy…certainly not because of Romney the candidate. Romney the candidate is easy to dispatch.”

    For all that Romney has improved since 2008, he’s still an awful candidate in both substance and style. I thought a few weeks ago that things were looking good for Newt and I’m warming more and more to him as a candidate, though not so much as a President. He still has to pull off that one big “come to Jesus” press conference or interview where he deals with his checkered matrimonial history.


  18. PJ says:

    Republican primaries and their delegate allocation rules are structured differently than Democratic primaries (Republicans also don’t have Superdelegates like the DNC does), so it’s not as likely that a Republican primary race could go as long as the Obama-Hillary race did in 2008.

    They changed the rules after 2008, so while there won’t be anything like Obama-Clinton, this year it will take longer time than last time (when it, in reality, ended February 7th with Romney withdrawing).
    The former rules would have been a lot better for Romney than the new rules that states that any primary before April 1st can’t be WTA or that primary gets punished. So instead of getting all the delegates, Romney will just get a percentage.

  19. Moosebreath says:

    Dave Anderson,

    I can see that, except Paul has a far bigger support base than Kucinich ever did.

  20. ponce says:

    Alternate post title: Herman Cain still leads Republican primary.

  21. PJ says:


    Alternate post title: Herman Cain still leads Republican primary.


    The margin of error for the sample of registered voters could be plus or minus three points and five points for the sample of Republican primary voters.

    Cain could be in the lead. (18%)
    Or “Undecided/Don’t know” could be in the lead. (17%)
    Or Romney could be in the lead. (15%)
    Or Gingrich could be in the lead. (15%)
    Or “Someone Else” could be in the lead. (14%)
    Or Perry and Cain could be tied. (8% and 18%)

    You really can’t say anything from this poll that we already didn’t know. Like that Paul, Bachmann, Santorum, and Huntsman isn’t in the lead.

  22. Modulo Myself says:

    An unspoken reason that Romney is so unpopular and appalling is that he, in contrast to all of the other GOP candidates, isn’t carrying around an enormous ego that critically hinders him from doing anything well.

    The average GOP-voter has now been conditioned to respond to a public ego as proof of some sort of private competence. They can smell the taint of the other in Romney’s schtick. Despite how unlikeable he appears as a campaigner, deep down there is a business person capable of listening to others, explaining himself, admitting when he was wrong, and learning.

  23. Hey Norm says:

    @ Modulo…
    Not sure how that squares with not standing behind his signature public policy achievement. Is it your position that Massechusetts Health Care Reform was a mistake that he now admits to? ‘Cause if it is…I ain’t buyin’ it.

  24. Lomax says:

    Many of the candidates have talked about doing away with some of the government agencies such as the Ed. Dept and EPA. I certainly think that all agencies, departments, and programs should undergo audits and studies at least every 2 years by an independent, private group that would make succinct recommendations. There are some programs and departments that should start over with a blank sheet. Some of these agencies have been around for so long that Congress isn’t even aware of their existence – they were cranked up decades ago and are still running. There should be accountability for every penny, with business like practices.

  25. ponce says:



    Here’s the title from the people who conducted this poll:

    Poll: Cain tops 3-way race with Romney, Gingrich

    Here’s the thing about margin of error calculations:

    All results within the margin of error range are not equally likely.

    Your statement: Or Romney could be in the lead. (15%)

    is similar to (and as equally valid as) someone saying there’s a chance that the Loch Ness Monster really exists.

  26. Barb Hartwell says:

    I`ll bet more people go into politics now The money, and the bennies are great and you don`t need to know anything You get away with being wrong, lying and can afford to get out of criminal charges. Just sign your soul over to the devil and life on Earth is a breeze.minus a few uncomfortable questions.

  27. Rick Almeida says:


    All results within the margin of error range are not equally likely.

    This would seem to be an empirical question, but isn’t it reasonable to infer that the actual level of support has some likelihood (the confidence level) of being in the range of the estimate +/- the margin of error with a uniform probability distribution inside the MoE, especially if the actual parameter is unknown?

  28. Lomax says:

    The EPA: I personally do not have much direct experience with the EPA, so I will refrain from comments or opinions. I would like to hear from business owners, contractors, and engineers concerning their experiences and thoughts. I do think that there should always be a collaborative relationship between the EPA and private business, not adversarial. I would remind anyone that Richard Nixon was the president who started the EPA and years ago it seemed to run smoother with less complaints. A lot of the regulations are state and local, so now it can take dozens of permits and inspections just to start a restaurant – piling on,overlap, and overkill! Of course, most of these are nothing more than backdoor taxes. Talk about why businesses aren’t growing!

    The auto emissions inspection is the one area I have a real gripe with. This gives dealers and crooked mechanics a blank check to require certain repairs and charge exorbitant prices. One dealer failed my car because of a worn belt: replacement charge $400. I got my neighbor to replace it for $20 plus $15 for the belt! Because of computers now, cars will get a “record” if they fail to pass. I am sure that some day the government will use computers to control cars and drivers: you will be allowed a certain amount of miles per year and if you exceed that, you have to park it! Or, you will be told where you can go and which roads you must take. This will happen and it is closer than you think. Car inspections used to be for real safety: tires, lights, brakes. No more: all kind of sensors and everything are checked and can be grounds for inspection failure! Even things like a worn gas cap, dirty air filter, or frayed vacuum hose – weird! ( I’m sure that many of you have similar experiences trying to get your car to pass; worse than a trip to the dentist.) Is there no end to government intrusion in our private lives and freedoms? Some states have actually done away with the ineffective inspection programs because of fraud, graft, and consumer complaints – good for them.

  29. Rob in CT says:

    I would like to hear from business owners, contractors, and engineers concerning their experiences and thoughts

    I’m not quite any of those things, but I have some (limited) insight.

    I work for a major insurer. I deal with long-tail pollution/haz waste claims. Leaky landfills, gas stations, dry cleaners… all sorts of stuff. Basically I see the mess left behind that becomes a problem decades later (and costs millions to clean up, but oh the polluter is now out of business, shucks).

    Mostly my claims involve the state equivalents of the EPA. The basic principles are the same, though. I, for one, think that any such agency needs to be careful about getting either too adversarial or too collaborative. Both have their dangers. Too adversarial and you unduly hamper business. Too collaborative and you allow all sorts of abuse. Trust me on this: if business can get away with polluting, they WILL pollute.

    As for the car inspection stuff… woah. Not my experience at all. Further, I think you may want to take off the tinfoil hat.

  30. Hey Norm says:

    “…there should always be a collaborative relationship between the EPA and private business, not adversarial…”

    What is often lost in discussions of the EPA is that they are there to protect me…”always having a collaborative relationship” is anathema to that mission. Certainly the EPA needs to keep business interests in mind with hope of striking reasonable compromise…but at the end of the day their allegience is to the health and welfare of the general populace. The extreme example of this was the Minerals Management Service…which was supposed to be providing oversight of energy producers…but in reality was simply enacting standards written by the energy producers. The BP spill was the end result of that cozy relationship. There is a happy medium between the MMS on one end of the spectrum and and tree-huggers on the other. The EPA needs to straddle that line. Any reasonable analysis shows that the Clean-Air act has been very successful and not onerous to business. Everyone on the debate stage the other night would do away with the EPA and the Clean-Air act with it. They would prefer the MMS model.

  31. matt b says:

    @Jay & @PD Shaw (among others)…

    There are a LOT of parallels to ’03. For example I think many Republican’s beliefs about the weakness of Obama’s position mirror Dem’s ideas at the time as to the weakness of Bush. In both cases, the assumption is that “anyone but the incumbent” will win.

    Likewise, assuming that things go the way anyone with a brain expects and Romney gets the nomination (and gets it early), you’re going to have exactly the same frustrations from the base that there were with Kerry (who’s biggest upside, when it came to that race) was that he wasn’t Bush.

    Well, the other upside to a Romney candidacy, will be to see the bitchin’ and moanin’ from the talk radio set and the more radical conservative commentors here.

  32. ponce says:

    This would seem to be an empirical question, but isn’t it reasonable to infer that the actual level of support has some likelihood (the confidence level) of being in the range of the estimate +/- the margin of error with a uniform probability distribution inside the MoE, especially if the actual parameter is unknown?


    As I said, at the limits we are in the win the lottery/bigfoot sighting range.

  33. Liberty60 says:

    I hear that 60 Minutes has an opening for Amusing Curmudgeon, now that Andy Rooney has passed.

  34. G.A.Phillips says:
  35. M. Bouffant says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Another interpretation: Romney just isn’t angry enough for the base.

    In this atmosphere Romney looks suspect to many activists on the right not because he isn’t conservative enough but because he isn’t angry enough. His real problem isn’t a question of ideology, it’s a matter of attitude. Mitt can’t keep himself from looking self-possessed and unflappable, cool and collected, reasonable and restrained. Rage isn’t part of his emotional repertoire: even when visibly frustrated by Rick Perry’s boorish disregard of all rules of debate in the Las Vegas slugfest, he came across as more pained and perplexed than infuriated.

    Like most seriously successful businessmen, Mitt is a pragmatic problem solver, a sensible fixer, a technocrat. It’s easy to imagine him rolling up his carefully cuff-linked sleeves to begin a process of cooperative, institutional repair in Washington, but it’s tough to visualize the perfectly poised governor at the head of an avenging conservative army, laying waste to the opposition in a merciless effort to smash the remaining redoubts of their power.

    The fact that Mitt Romney’s lack of anger and indignation has become a disqualifying attribute to many of his conservative critics isn’t just a problem for Romney or for Republicans. It’s an alarming development for the United States of America.

  36. PJ says:


    What you can say from that poll is that with a 95% confidence level the actual results for the different choices lies within +/- 5 points from the reported result. You can’t, based on that poll, say anything about which result would be more likely. The poll could also be one of the 5% where the actual results aren’t within the margin of error.

    The headline is generally not written by the person(s) writing the article, the person(s) writing the article may not the involved in the actual polling or may not be able to interpret the results.
    And if they actually would start writing what actually can be said from the results of polls, then pretty soon those making the polls would be looking for new jobs.

    In the poll with a 95% confidence level, Cain’s support lies somewhere between 23% and 13% and Romney’s support lies somewhere between 20% and 10%.
    Saying that Romney could be in the lead isn’t like saying that there’s chance that the Loch Ness Monster really exists.

    If you want lower margin of error you are going to have to ask more republican primary voters (expensive), or you could go for a lower confindence level.

    So you could say this instead:
    With a 66% confidence level the actual result lies within +/- 2.43 points of the results in the poll, but that would only remove Perry, and would also mean that 1 in 3 polls the actual results would not lie within the margin of error.

    Or you could say this:
    With a 44% confidence the actual result lies within +/- 1.49 points of the results in the poll, which would mean that Cain would be in the lead (if you disregard the undecided/don’t know), but that would also mean that in 56% of the polls the actual results wouldn’t be within the margin of error.

  37. Fiona says:

    Gingrich? Really? I can’t believe he’s the latest anti-Romney, although I suppose the Republican base has nobody else. I bet Palin is kicking herself for not entering the race.

    I agree that there are parallels to the Democratic race of 2003 except that most of the Democratic candidates were actually sane.

  38. sam says:

    Reminds me of Bob Dole:

    “History buffs probably noted the reunion at a Washington party a few weeks ago of three ex-presidents: Carter, Ford and Nixon – See No Evil, Hear No Evil and Evil.”

    Substitute as you like.