Your New National Frontrunner is Herman Cain

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 12 2011 2:38 PM

Your New National Frontrunner is Herman Cain

Public Policy Polling witnesses a massive, historic, world-changing Herman Cain surge -- a surge comparable only by the brief boomlets for Trump, Bachmann, and Perry, who are now in different realms of Afterthoughtland. The difference? Well, Cain has been at this a while; this is his second surge, made possible by constantly growing voter enthusiasm.

The numbers and trends:

Herman Cain - 30% (+22)
Mitt Romney - 22% (+4)
Newt Gingrich - 15% (+5)
Rick Perry - 14% (-17)
Michele Bachmann - 5% (-4)
Ron Paul - 5% (-6)
Jon Huntsman - 2% (+0)
Rick Santorum - 1% (-1)
Gary Johnson - >0%
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Big deal, right? The conservative division continues; Romney continues to pick up steam? Not quite.

If the race came down to a two way match between Cain and Romney, Cain leads 48-36.  Cain would pick up Bachmann, Gingrich, Perry, and Santorum's supporters.  Romney would get Huntsman and Paul's.  Cain would absolutely crush Perry in a head to head, 55-27. He would win over the supporters of every other candidate, including Romney's by a 56-24 margin.

Romney doesn't even have a particular stickiness advantage over Cain. Thirty-one percent of Romney voters are committed. Thirty percent of Cain voters are committed. At 66 percent, he has the highest favorable numbers in the race; Romney's favorables are at 55 percent. So we see why Romney continues to try and keep Bachmann in the race, why he didn't go particularly hard on Perry last night, and why he doesn't attack Cain. The first test of voter intensity is Iowa, in less than three months. Conservatives keep splitting, Cain stays strong while failing to organize effectively, and he can survive or win Iowa over a jumbled pile of conservatives that Republicans actually have stronger feelings about. (Parenthetical: PPP sees movement toward Gingrich that no one else does, but it's no surprise to see him rewarded for media-bashing. Gingrich appeals to the same voters that Cain does; he poses no financial or organizational threat to Romney.)

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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