Two New Polls Confirm It’s A Romney/Cain/Perry Race, For Now

The Republican race remains as fluid as it has ever been.

With the next Republican debate just over 24 hours away, two new polls confirm the new state of the race, the fall of Rick Perry, and the rise of Herman Cain.  If nothing else, we’re now at the point in the race where you’re likely to start hearing people talk about the end of the Perry campaign. It’s an absurd idea, not only because he’s got $17,000,000 in the bank, but for the reasons I discussed just two weeks ago. Rick Perry is down, but he’s far from out. The question is how, if it all, he turns himself around.

First up, we’ve got a pre-debate poll from co-sponsors The Washington Post and Bloomberg:

Continuing his national surge, Herman Cain came in second place among Republican presidential candidates in a new national poll released Monday.

The Washington Post/Bloomberg survey of Republican-leaning voters showed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on top with Cain, the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO, in the No. 2 spot, slightly ahead of Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Romney received 25% support, followed by Cain with 16%, Perry with 13%, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas with 6% and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota with 4%. The remaining candidates received lower figures.

The respondents who lean Republican said Romney, at 22%, would do the most to improve the economy. Cain, who has made the economy the central theme of his campaign, received 20% and Perry received 12%. Meanwhile, the questioners said Bachmann would do the most to hurt the economy. She garnered 14% followed by Paul at 11% and Perry at 9%.

That last set of numbers is perhaps the most interesting. Perry came into this race with the most years in government of anyone else on the stage, and when he started out he was pointing to the economy of Texas as an argument in his favor and a contrast to both the current President, and Romney’s own job creation record as Governor of Massachusetts. Despite that, Republican leaning voters think Mitt Romney, who has served only four years as Governor, and a guy who has absolutely no political experience at all would do a better job to improve the economy. Even worse, Romney finishes third behind Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann on the question of which candidate would do the more harm to the economy. Is this a sign that Brand Perry is irreparably damaged? I’m not sure, but it’s certainly not good.

Also out today is a new Gallup poll, which pretty much shows the same thing:

Republicans’ support for Herman Cain has surged to 18%, their support for Rick Perry has sagged to 15%, and their support for Mitt Romney remains relatively stable at 20%. However, Romney’s support is matched by the 20% of Republicans who are unsure which candidate they will back for the Republican nomination in 2012.

Gallup’s Oct. 3-7 update of Republicans’ preferences for their party’s 2012 presidential nominee shows that Romney since mid-September has regained a numerical lead over the rest of the field, mainly because Perry’s support has dropped by half over the same period. At the same time, support for Cain has more than tripled, from 5% to 18%, creating a competitive three-way race for the nomination between Romney, Cain, and Perry — all within five percentage points of each other. Prior to now, Gallup has had Romney out front, Perry out front, or a two-way battle between them.

Also of note in the new results are Ron Paul’s return to single-digit support levels, and the failure of Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Jon Huntsman to make significant gains.

Here are the numbers:

Gallup goes on to note that, this year, Republicans seem to be acting like the Democrats have in the past in choosing their nominee:

Today’s Republican lineup is more akin to the history of Democratic primary campaigns than Republican campaigns. And it may be instructive to note that the Democrats’ eventual nominees often ranked second or lower at this stage leading up to the election year. Of course, the media, political climate, and political system are quite different today from decades past, so the opportunity for candidates with lower support to surge into the lead as a result of early primary (or state party convention or caucus) wins may not be as great as it once was.

In the meantime, Gallup is seeing plenty of surging and plunging of candidates as a result of the media exposure they are receiving from the Republican straw polls and debates. Given that, and the still-sizable percentage of Republicans who are undecided, history suggests the race may remain fluid for some time.

That last sentence is perhaps the most important takeaway from all these polls right now. The Real Clear Politics poll average shows us the following:

And the trend is exceedingly clear:

The average undecided number from all the polls depicted here is roughly 22%. That’s enough to completely change the tenor of the race. Who those undecided voters are, and which candidate they end up backing is what is going to decide the race for the Republican nomination.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, 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. mantis says:

    I’m hoping for a Romney/Cain ticket with Michele Bachmann and Donald Trump each running independent campaigns. This would be the funniest possible outcome under the circumstances.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    I endorse your comedy ticket.

  3. WR says:

    There are really only two candidates: Romney and not-Romney. The identity of not-Romney keeps changing as one pretender after another flames out, but aside from that the race has been entirely stable — Romney 20-25%, not Romney 75-80%.

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    @WR: Yes it’s basically Romney and a clown show.

  5. mantis says:

    Gallup: Romney Trails Generic Clown 55%.

  6. ponce says:

    Speaking of generic clowns:

    Convicted felon/terrorist James O’Keefe has been flying around the country on the Koch Brothers’ dime giving speeches for their “Americans for Prosperity” front group:

  7. MBunge says:

    I can’t wait to see how the modern mindset of GOP voters responds to the sort of knock down, drag out primary fight the Dems had last time between Clinton and Obama.


  8. michael reynolds says:

    Have you guys seen Perry’s attack ad on Romney? Very nicely done.

  9. ponce says:
  10. @WR:

    Could we at least let Ron Paul or Gary Johnson have a turn as the not-Romney?

  11. A voice from another precinct says:

    @michael reynolds: @ponce: Wow! That IS good!

  12. Dazedandconfused says:

    Third party: Trump/Palin — “You’re Fired!” “I Quit!”

    Perry still has a shot if he gets his act together. My gut says the Cain supporters will go to him, if he manages to stay close to Mitt.

  13. WiseFather says:

    I have posted an enhanced transcript of the September 7, 2011, GOP debate featuring special guest appearances by the WiseFather, God, Lord Voldemort, and a pigeon. I thought you might enjoy it.