Cain Mutiny: Herman Cain Leads Mitt Romney By 20 Points In New Zogby Poll

 

In a race for the Republican presidential nomination that has seen several spectacular flashes in the pan, none has burned as brightly as upstart pizza magnate Herman Cain, who shot past Rick Perry following the Texas Governor’s poor debate performance, tied Mitt Romney for the lead in one poll last week, and has now left the entire field choking on his jet wash in a new Zogby poll. Cain now leads former frontrunner Mitt Romney, 38%-18%, with Rick Perry tied for third with Ron Paul, at 12%.

Even if you view the Zogby poll as an outlier, it still shows a steep climb in support for Cain compared to earlier results from the same survey, from 12% on Sept. 12, to 28% on Sept. 26, and to 38% as of Oct. 5. Outlier or not, this is also the first poll taken since announcements by NJ Gov. Chris Christie and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin that they each would not be running for president in 2012, which might indicate that, as the GOP field settles, support from those dissatisfied with Romney is settling on Herman Cain.

It’s also the first poll taken since the controversy over Rick Perry’s hunting camp, and Cain’s reaction to it. While some conservatives criticized Cain over his reaction, Perry’s six point drop, and Cain’s ten point gain, seem to indicate how that conflict has shaken out.

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Romney’s support in the Zogby poll remained essentially flat, a pattern that has been repeated in poll after poll. The twenty-or-so percent of Republicans who have stuck with Romney through several flashes in the pan don’t appear to be going anywhere, but they’re also not enough to overcome a candidate like Cain, should the conservative base continue to rally around him.

It’s early yet, of course, but with this kind of wind at his back, Herman Cain could have a lot more stamina that previous challengers to the Romney inevitability. His self-admitted weakness on foreign policy hasn’t hurt him so far, and attacks from the media, like Sarah Palin before him, only seem to make him stronger. The next Republican debate will focus on the economy, long considered Mitt Romney’s wheelhouse, but Cain’s candidacy has been buoyed by an economic plan that has captured the imagination of the GOP faithful, the “9-9-9” plan.

This puts Romney in sort of a no-win situation. Cain’s 9-9-9 plan has faced heavy criticism from economic experts, but on the basis of two “R”s that mean little to Republican primary voters: revenue and the regressive nature of the tax. Romney isn’t likely to put a dent in Cain by arguing for more government revenue, or against shifting the tax burden downward. His experience in the private sector is pretty well nullified by Cain’s appealing, self-made history, which really only leaves Cain’s lack of governing experience, versus Romney’s record as governor.

Another test for Cain will be whether he can make gains on Romney in early primary states. Cain has surged in New Hampshire, but still trails Romney by comfortable margins. However, Cain stands to do well in Florida, where he trounced Romney and Perry in that state’s straw poll.

Those hoping for a Cain implosion should keep in mind that he benefits from all of the previous flameouts, and the absence of a Candidate of Damocles hanging over his head. What could Cain possibly say that would dissuade conservative voters, that he hasn’t already said? Eventually, Cain’s fate will rest on the attitudes of Republican voters toward that dirtiest of words to a primary voer: electability.

The E-word is Romney’s best selling point, but even there, he’s vulnerable to Cain. In that same Zogby poll, Cain bested President Obama in head-to-head polling, 46%-44%, while Obama beat Romney, 41% to 40%.

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