The Cain Surge, Continued

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 11 2011 10:16 AM

The Cain Surge, Continued

Gallup sees it.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Mitt Romney - 20% (-4)
Herman Cain - 18% (+13)
Rick Perry - 15% (-16)
Ron Paul - 8% (-5)
Newt Gingrich - 7% (+2)
Michele Bachmann - 5% (+0)
Rick Santorum - 3% (+1)
Jon Huntsman - 2% (+1)
Undecided - 20% (+10)

Look at that undecided number -- overall, some candidates lost an aggregate 25 points of support, and others gained an aggregate of 17 points, as the undecided number has surged. That's national, and it doesn't change the fact that Romney is positioned to beat a weak field in New Hampshire.

The Washington Post/Bloomberg pollsters see it, too.

Mitt Romney - 24%
Herman Cain - 16%
Rick Perry - 13%
Ron Paul - 6%
Michele Bachmann - 4%
Newt Gingrich - 3%
Rick Santorum - 1%
Jon Huntsman - 0%
No opinion - 29%

These polls provide the right context for Robert Costa's version of Sunset Boulevard chronicle of the Bachmann campaign's fade. The conclusion, based in no small part on the analysis of free-firing ex-campaign manager Ed Rollins, is that Bachmann blew it by spending so much time and money winning the Ames Straw Poll. (Ed Rollins taking shots at a campaign he used to work for! This may be the most stunning development of 2011.)

Some senior advisers predicted she could pad her lead there, knock off fellow Minnesotan Tim Pawlenty, and cast her candidacy as the credible “Romney alternative.” Not everyone in Bachmann’s orbit, however, thought this was the smart play. Winning Ames, as one former associate explains, costs millions. For the fledgling effort of a House member, pouring cash into a straw poll and hoping for a political payoff was, at best, risky. Lose it and you could be finished; win it, and you have momentum, but less money, a harsher spotlight, and no tangible electoral gain. Bachmann shrugged off such concerns, aides say. She would gun for the straw poll. As a Waterloo native, she wanted to make a splash, and had little interest in keeping her campaign on low simmer through the summer, raising money and making policy speeches, hoping for an autumn rise. Ed Rollins, the campaign manager at the time, argued with her about this, asking her to reconsider her Ames emphasis.

Of course he did. But in what situation would Bachmann skipping the straw poll have set her up better for the rest of the campaign? Had she skipped, Ron Paul probably would have won the thing (he came close), embarassing Tim Pawlenty, but probably not forcing him out -- the punditocracy would have baked a Paul win into the analysis, writing it off. Bachmann, who's actually from Iowa, would have proven that her support was paper-thin. Rick Perry would have jumped into the race the day after the poll anyway. How and when was she ever going to get lift-off?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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