Herman Cain Continues To Lead GOP Field

Quite improbably, Herman Cain remains at the top of the GOP field.

His economic plan has been eviscerated from the left and the right, and there’s no sign that he’s actually running a serious Presidential campaign, but Herman Cain remains at the top of the field for the Republican nomination:

Herman Cain, the former restaurant executive, is riding a wave of support among Republican primary voters that has placed him in a statistical dead heat with rival Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, in a race that has been characterized by momentum swings among the candidates.

The poll found Mr. Cain with the highest level of support, with 25 percent of Republican primary voters, and Mr. Romney with 21 percent. This difference is within the poll’s margin of sampling error.

Adding to the fluidity of the contest, about one in 10 Republican primary voters say they would like to see someone else nominated.

Support for Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, has weakened to 6 percent, placing him among the second-tier candidates with Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, who have the backing of 10 percent and 8 percent of Republican primary voters, respectively. Michele Bachmann, Jon M. Huntsman Jr., and Rick Santorum are all struggling to gain traction with the Republican electorate – none of the three drew more than 2 percent of support among Republican primary voters.

This is a somewhat significant change from the last CBS/New York Times poll taken three weeks ago, which had Romney and Cain tied at 17%, Perry at 11%, and Gingrich at 8%. So, despite the all-out assault on Cain, and not a few gaffes on his part, we’ve seen his support (and, to be fair, Romney’s) rise, while Perry now finds himself on the precipice of falling into the non-entity category along with Santorum, Huntsman, and Bachmann. The good news for Perry is that there still seems to be a substantial part of the Republican electorate willing to look at other candidates:

About eight in 10 Republican primary voters say it is still too early to tell whom they will support, and just four in 10 say they have been paying a lot of attention to the 2012 presidential campaign, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Additionally, some 24% of the respondents in the poll are not committing to any candidate, an amount that is essentially the same as those saying that they back either Cain or Romney. For all of these candidates, but most especially for Romney and Perry, this means that there is still an opportunity to change the state of play in the race by appealing to these voters, most of whom haven’t even started paying much attention to the race to begin with (a strategy which I must admit is probably a good idea). With Perry just starting to roll out his economic plan, and apparently getting ready to go on the air with an aid campaign that will be near saturation levels in the early primary states, there’s plenty of time for him to turn things around. As long as he doesn’t continue to say stupid things, that is.

But what of Herman Cain? Three weeks ago, I expressed doubt that he would have staying power largely because of what he’s said in the past and the fact that he didn’t appear to be running a serious campaign. Since then, we’ve seen even more examples of his propensity to make statements about subjects when it’s clear that he has no idea what he’s talking about, or changing his position to suit his audience on issues like abortion and immigration. His foreign policy positions are atrocious. We’ve also seen that he raised an anemic amount of money in the third quarter, and apparently used some of it to produce one of the strangest campaign ads we’ve seen in quite some time. He still appears to be spending most of his time in states that don’t have primaries until March or April. He barely has a campaign presence in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, or Florida. I’m not even sure that he’s filed to be on the ballot in New Hampshire yet (the deadline is this coming Friday). None of this points to a man who is serious about running for the Presidency, or who is going to be able to capitalize on the lead he has in the polls right now. The conventional wisdom is that Cain will start falling in the polls once the real campaigning for Iowa and New Hampshire begins in November. Could the conventional wisdom be wrong? Yea, it could, but it doesn’t seem likely that will happen.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, The Presidency, 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. michael reynolds says:

    I assume you’ve all seen this from the Onion.

    BELMONT, MA—While he is widely favored to win the Republican nomination for president next year, Mitt Romney told reporters Monday that deep down, what he truly wants is to actually establish a real, authentic connection with at least one voter before his campaign ends.

    The anguished former Massachusetts governor, who conceded many in his party will recognize him as their most electable candidate and vote for him only by default, said victory in the primaries will mean nothing to him if he remains incapable of energizing a single member of the American electorate.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Cain is simplistic, ignorant and angry. He’s a perfect fit for the GOP.

  3. kcfield says:

    Doug, Cain leads by a huge margin over Romney according to the latest national Zogby poll. For some reason, Zogby polls are ignored in the media when they don’t support an “heir apparent” candidate. Here is the link:

  4. kctfield,

    Zobgy’s polls are inherently unreliable. Nobody takes them seriously

  5. john personna says:

    This represents some kind of catharsis. It isn’t about electing Cain, it’s about being for Cain.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    @john personna:
    You know, you may be right about that. Maybe more is going on here than I’ve realized.

  7. MBunge says:

    Unless Perry can turn things around, I’m still putting my money on Gingrich. Don’t count out Cain, though. He seems to be getting the same kind of personality-centric true believer support that Palin once commanded.


  8. John P says:

    @Doug Mataconis: You are arguing the validity of polls that neither determine, nor are they an indicator of future results? A little like crushing the Harris in favor of the AP two weeks before the college football season kicks off.

  9. Tlaloc says:

    I think the strength of Cain’s polling is directly related to the weakness of the real field and the hatred of ta good amount of the base for the establishment GOP. In other words- tantrum.

  10. G.A.Phillips says:
  11. PJ says:

    There have been three Zogby polls this month on the 2012 Republican presidential primaries.
    Cain’s results in these polls are 39%, 45%, and 38%.
    In the 14 other polls conducted this month Cain is getting between 8% and 33%. (The 8% is one where they asked all adults, his second lowest result this month is 16%).

    Either Zogby is on to something that the other 11 that have released polls aren’t or they need to recalibrate their stuff.

    I’m betting on the latter.

  12. G.A.Phillips says:

    Zobgy’s polls are inherently unreliable. Nobody takes them seriously


  13. Hey Norm says:

    What a hapless political party….the guy leading the polls isn’t even running!!!

  14. PJ says:

    I’m pretty certain that the objection about Zogby polls are about Cain’s huge lead, most polls in October have Cain in the lead. *
    But in the October Zogby polls Cain and Romney get these numbers 38-18, 45-21, 39-19.
    There’s a YouGuv poll with 33-18, but the rest aren’t even close to the kind of lead that Zogby shows.

    * Edit: Make that that they are unreliable and in their October poll that shows with their huge lead for Cain, and the difference between him and Romney. Something that none of the other pollster show.

  15. @G.A.Phillips:

    Umm the poll you linked to is the same poll I am writing about in the post.

  16. .@PJ:

    The objections to Zogby have to do with his inherently flawed methodology, which make his polls unreliable.

    Nate Silver has detailed the problems with Zobgy polling in two posts:

    The Worst Pollster In The World Strikes Again


    Zogby Broke The Internet, But It Can Be Fixed

  17. ponce says:

    Poor, sad Mittens.

    He could lose this thing.

  18. mantis says:


    The CBS News/New York Times poll has Cain over Romney by 4%. The Zogby poll has Cain leading Romney by 20%, and had him up by 24% last week. I would call it an outlier, but Zogby’s methods are so unsound it doesn’t even deserve that categorization. It’s just garbage.

    The RCP average has Cain up by 1% right now. Most of the recent polls have them within 5 points of each other. A 20-24% lead is ridiculous.

    Let’s also not forget that these are national polls, which mean absolutely nothing in a primary contest. The important numbers to watch are state polls among registered Republicans and ground operations in the early states. Cain is doing pretty well in Iowa and South Carolina polls, but his ground game is pathetic, with barely any time to try to catch up. He’s not cut out for this. His campaign manager likes him, as his new ad tells us, so I guess that’s something.

  19. G.A.Phillips says:


    G.A.Phillips says:

    Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 14:12

    : LOL, yeah, Facebook is going to win you Iowa and New Hampshire. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney has 1,146,954 likes on his Facebook page.

    He is leading in Iowa and just started asking for donations on Rush’s show, bought adds and in all 57 states:)

    Very smart dude…

  20. @G.A.Phillips:

    I’m not sure what point you’re trying to prove by constantly posting links. This lead in the polls isn’t likely to last very long Herman continues with the way he’s been operating to date.

  21. mattb says:

    The entire thing is that Cain will probably lead or remain towards the top until Iowa.

    Cain might even, take Iowa only because Mitt doesn’t seem to be running to win there. Heck, I’d even go so far as to guess that Romney’s camp would love to see either Cain or Bachmann win Iowa … basically anyone but Perry. That said, because Iowa is about on the ground organization, I expect Perry will take it (though the question is, by how much). If Romney somehow wins Iowa, it will be a very short primary season.

    As to why Cain will continue to lead?
    1. He’s charismatic, a solid marketer and provides a great sound-clip. That makes him very conservative media friendly.
    2. While Perry may be going all in with Birther stuff, Cain is still the best “I’m going to say what I think, and do it in a compelling way.” So that means he’s remain the stick it the democratic/liberal strawman.
    3. Cain doesn’t have a legislative record. And it’s clear that Republicans are still looking for an outsider. Perry has a track record hanging over him. Cain gets to be a cypher.
    4. He’s male (which gives him an advantage over Bachmann) and Black (which makes him a “feel” good candidate during this phase of the campaign).
    5. He’s got a great story.

    I don’t see how Perry overcomes this without Mitt or Cain really going down in flames. That said, it’s clear that Cain has the target on his back and people within the party are starting to take shots at him. However, having Carl Rove as an enemy — as Sarah Palin has proven — may actual help solidify conservative support rather than drain it.

    And ultimately, the primaries are about the true believers.

  22. sam says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I lived in Belmont. Last place in America one could hope to energize anybody.

  23. sam says:

    @Doug Mataconis:


    I’m not sure what point you’re trying to prove by constantly posting links.

    He’s not trying to prove anything. They’re just shiny.

  24. G.A.Phillips says:


  25. jan says:


    A concise, compelling post Mattb.

    I think you have a huge point about the lack of a congressional record helping Cain as well. In a way he is similar to Obama, in being a rather blank sheet of paper. Even though our current president had brief Congressional experiences, on both the state and federal levels, his record was scant, with little there to reference. Cain is the same way, appealing to his constituency, as you said, as an outsider.

    And, as much as I don’t think Obama lived up to his ‘o8 hype, I think the same would be the case for Cain should he be the nominee, let alone the winner of the ’12 contest. While I like the man personally, as I do Obama, I don’t think he has experience, political savvy, and especially the foreign policy knowledge to take on this challenging job and be successful in addressing all the problems that are married to it.

  26. Terrye says:

    AP just came out with a poll that put Romney back on top.

  27. ponce says:

    This lead in the polls isn’t likely to last very long Herman continues with the way he’s been operating to date.


    The Republican base loves the way Cain has been “operating.”

  28. marcjan says:

    Iowa primary: is it Herman Cain’s “High Noon?”

    Link: https://marcjan.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/iowa-primary-is-it-herman-cains-high-noon/

  29. mattb says:

    Thanks @jan for the kind words.