Less than 8 weeks from Iowa and after a couple of tough weeks, a CBS poll says Herman Cain is still in the top tier of GOP candidates and leads a three-way race.
In the Republican race for the presidential nomination, Newt Gingrich’s support continues to slowly grow, and he is now tied with Mitt Romney for second place, while Herman Cain just edges both of them out for the top spot. Both Cain and Romney have lost support since late October.
In a new CBS News Poll, 61 percent of Republican primary voters say the sexual harassment accusations against Cain won’t make any difference in their vote, but 30 percent say the charges make them less likely to back him, and that rises to 38 percent among women. Cain has lost support among women since last month – from 28 percent in October to 15 percent now. He has lost ground with conservatives and Tea Party supporters as well.
But the race could still change; seven in 10 Republican primary voters say it is still too early to say for sure which candidate they will support.
That last sentence is key. The race may be more volatile than polls indicate at the moment. Cain was already taking on some damage before the Politico story, thanks to a series of answers on abortion and negotiating with terrorists and his 9-9-9 plan that betrayed his lack of policy depth. He was fortunate that his own debate gaffe occurred during the little-watched debate with Newt Gingrich on Saturday. As the sexual harassment allegations against him fall apart, Cain is left atop the polls and with a massive campaign war chest to spend that he didn’t have two weeks ago.
This primary is strange all the way around. Two of the current top three candidates literally started out their campaigns alongside product tours; Cain, with a book, Gingrich, with a book and a movie. Gingrich’s campaign imploded in part because of that movie promotion. His 2.0 campaign hasn’t raised much money but has lived off his strong and consistent debate performances. Yet he and Cain are currently making moves to become the not-Romney, because the establishment’s preferred candidate has never been able to establish himself as a reliable standard-bearer for the GOP. Neither has much by way of a campaign organization yet, and Cain’s has caused him as many problems as it may have solved. The most conservative candidates who also lack significant personal baggage are currently lagging in the second tier.
Update: A new McClatchy-Marist poll puts Romney in front, followed by Gingrich, Cain, Paul and Perry.