Herman Cain just jumped to the front of two national polls in one day. Not too bad for a guy who was in the single digits in the GOP presidential field all summer.
Cain has risen in the polls after Texas Gov. Rick Perry faltered in Florida. He took the lead in a recent survey of GOP caucus-goers in Iowa. Now on Wednesday night he leads the GOP field in a new national poll conducted by NBC and the Wall Street Journal, one by Public Policy Polling (D) and took second in a new Reuters/Ipsos survey.
Cain is ahead of the pack in the NBC/WSJ poll with 27 percent, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney at 23 percent and Perry 16. But head-to-head matchups with President Obama tell a much different story about the 2012 Republican primary race: despite the party faithful desperately trying to find someone besides Mitt Romney, he’s by far the strongest candidate against Obama if they chose to nominate him.
Cain might not want to get too comfy in the top spot; this is third consecutive NBC/WSJ poll with a different candidate in the lead. Romney led in July and Perry led in August.
For his part, Perry has dropped more than half of his support, down from 38 percent in the previous NBC/WSJ August poll. Perry had retained high favorability ratings when he was on top, but those have fallen dramatically along with his standing within the field. Meanwhile, Cain’s favorability points are rising rapidly.
From NBC’s First Read: “Cain’s numbers are sky-high among Republican primary voters. Fifty-two percent view him favorably, versus just 6 percent who see him unfavorably. Among Tea Party supporters, his favorable/unfavorable score is 69 percent to 5 percent. And among Republicans who identify themselves as ‘very conservative,’ it’s 72 percent to 2 percent.”
Romney, for his part, remains steady, a sign that for all the volatility in the race, he’s having trouble capitalizing on it. NBC broke his standing down like this:
Despite Cain’s rise and Perry’s fall over the past month and a half, Romney’s standing in the Republican horse race hasn’t changed—it was 23 percent in August, and it’s unchanged at 23 percent now.
But that doesn’t mean that Romney is unappealing to Republican voters. His favorable/unfavorable score is 51 percent to 16 percent, which is in the ballpark of Cain’s.
Among Tea Party supporters, it’s 55 percent to 20 percent, and among “very conservative” Republicans, it’s 60 percent to 19 percent.
But of course, the general election matchups are an altogether different matter. Every Republican contender is bested by Obama by varying amounts in the NBC/WSJ, with Romney the closest competitor. He’s beaten by Obama 46 - 44 in a trial heat, while Perry only gets 39 percent against the President, who does over a majority at 51 percent. The new leader, Cain, loses solidly as well, 49 - 39 against Obama.
Kyle is the Editor of TPM Media’s PollTracker. He graduated from Beloit College (WI) and began working in politics before getting an M.A. in magazine journalism from New York University, where he interned at TPM and the website of The New Yorker.