Iowa: Cain Leads (But How Much Does that Matter at This Point?)
Rasmussen has Herman Cain atop the GOP in Iowa.
A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Iowa caucus-goers shows that Cain is in front with 28% followed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at 21%. Congressman Ron Paul is a distant third at 10% followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 9%, Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann at 8%, and Texas Governor Rick Perry at 7%. The sixth place finish for Perry is a sharp decline from early September when Perry was the frontrunner both nationally and in Iowa.
This looks good for Cain and obviously bad for Perry, the two who bookend the poll result. But, let's flash back to October 2007. Mitt Romney won the Ames straw poll that year. Mike Huckabee kept surging late in Iowa polls.And the Democrats had an evident inevitable front-runner on their side.
Senator Clinton has taken the lead among Democratic presidential candidates in an Iowa poll, an encouraging sign of progress toward overcoming a big hurdle in the race. Mrs. Clinton was supported by 29% of the 399 respondents to the poll conducted October 1–3, compared with 21% in May.
Messrs. Edwards and Obama are not far behind, ensuring that all three campaigns will continue their intense efforts in Iowa, which leads off voting in the 2008 primary contests.
We all know how that worked out. Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee didn't spend October 2007 atop the Iowa polls, (Huckabee actually fell behind within days of the caucus) but they came out of the caucuses as victors. With his characteristic humility and understatement, Obama called the Iowa win a "defining moment in history." John McCain limped out of Iowa in fourth place, promising to carry the fight to New Hampshire.
Iowa is a caucus state; winning there requires personnel and a very on-the-ground strategy. We'll see if Cain's recent poll surge turns into a win in Iowa. Don't be surprised if it doesn't.
The poll numbers we're seeing now do matter, some. But they're snapshots of the recent past, not reliable predictors of the future.
Update: What the candidates say and do matters quite a bit too, obviously, and in the past week we've seen Cain commit a pair of potentially game-changing gaffes -- one on foreign policy, the other on abortion. These comments may not hurt him as much as Perry's "heartless" comment did, because that comment directly affronted GOP voters, but do point to Cain's inexperience as a campaigner and candidate.