Two polls published today show Herman Cain leading the GOP presidential candidate field.
The NBC/Wall Street Journal and PPP polls give the Georgia businessman his first poll leads of the season:
Yesterday PPP released numbers showing Herman Cain leading Mitt Romney 30-22 in Iowa and our monthly look at the national picture finds the exact same numbers. Cain is up 30-22 on Romney with Newt Gingrich sneaking past Rick Perry for 3rd place at 15% to Perry's 14% with Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul tied for 5th at 5%, Jon Huntsman 7th at 2%, Rick Santorum 8th at 1%, and Gary Johnson 9th with less than 1%.
Strong Tea Party support has Cain in the driver's seat nationally, just as he has been on our last four individual state polls. With non-Tea Party Republicans Romney actually leads Cain 29-27. But with the Tea Party crowd Cain is getting 39% with Gingrich at 16%, Perry at 14%, and Romney in 4th place at 13%. Romney doesn't need to win the Tea Partiers to be the Republican nominee. But he does need to finish better than 4th with them.
There are indications within the poll that Cain's stay at the top could be short lived. Only 30% of his supporters are solidly committed to him with 70% saying they might still go on to support someone else. Those numbers aren't much better for Romney, who only has 31% of his supporters solidly committed, or Gingrich, who only has 34% solidly committed. The strongest base of support among the Republican front runners- even if it's shrinking- is Perry's- 48% of his remaining backers say they'll definitely vote for him. Overall 70% of Republicans are either undecided right now or open to voting for someone different than who they're with now- that signals an extremely wide open race.
Fueled by Tea Party supporters, conservatives and high-interest GOP primary voters, former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain now leads the race for the Republican presidential nomination, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
And in yet another sign of how volatile the Republican race has been with less than three months until the first nominating contests, the onetime frontrunner, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, has plummeted to third place, dropping more than 20 percentage points since late August.
"Cain is the leader ... That's the story," said Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff.
Read the full NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll here (.pdf)
But McInturff cautions that Cain's ascent - and Perry's decline - is probably not the last shakeup in a GOP race that has seen a series of sudden rises and abrupt falls (first Donald Trump, then Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and now Perry) in the field.
"There is still a long, long, long time to go," McInturff said.
Talk of Romney "inevitability" is silly. The candidate has consistently failed to top 30% of support in his own party, despite running the best against President Obama. One gets the impression that GOP voters would probably swallow hard and accept Romney, but are still casting about looking for something better.
Have they found it in Cain? Time will tell. Cain is very inexperienced in running a national campaign and there are many pitfalls and landmines to avoid. But he does well in debates, and now we'll see how he does as a frontrunner.