An NBC News / WSJ nationwide poll among likely GOP primary voters released last week has Cain in front with 27%, followed by Romney (23%), Perry (16%), and Paul (11%), with all others in single digits. Public Policy Polling also has recent numbers showing a single-digit Cain lead (30% Cain / 22% Romney / Gingrich 15% / Perry 14%). PPP shows Cain's nationwide lead driven by a 21-point lead with Tea Party supporters and a 13-point margin among "very conservative" voters. A YouGov/Economist poll has Cain with an even wider margin (33% Cain / 18% Romney). While 33% is his current peak, recent Reuters, WaPo, Gallup, Quinnipiac, and CBS polling also show Cain on the move.
Beyond the Horse Race
NBC / WSJ polling shows Cain's national name-ID (among all voters, not just Republicans) at 62%, with a net 6-point positive rating (24% Positive / 18% Negative / 20% Neutral). Cain's net-positive rating is especially impressive compared to the net-negative ratings of both Romney (-2) and Perry (-17). In fact, Cain's 6-point positive rating tracks President Obama's (46% Positive / 40% Negative / 14% Neutral). Interestingly, African Americans don't view Cain dramatically differently than they do the rest of the GOP field. PPP provides a Cain favorability by race lines and shows Cain running at a 4:1 unfavorable rating among African Americans (15% favorable / 62% unfavorable). Cain's 4:1 unfavorable rating isn't as bad as Romney's and Perry's, but is worse than Bachmann's (3:1 unfavorables among African Americans).
Among likely Republican primary voters nationwide Cain's positive rating is predictably higher (52% Positive / 6% Negative). Cain's roughly 9:1 favorable ratio is dramatically better than any other candidate's, with Romney showing the next most impressive ratio at slightly above 3:1 (51% Positive / 16% Negative). Cain is also the only GOP hopeful without a double-digit negative rating. Cain's rating with Tea Party supporters (69% Positive / 5% Negative) and those who consider themselves "very conservative" (72% Positive / 2% Negative) is even higher than his GOP-wide numbers.
Cain is not only leading the primary field, but more Republicans are enthusiastic about pulling the lever for him in November than they are for any other candidate. Forty-five percent (45%) of Republicans indicate they'd vote for Cain "with enthusiasm" in November, compared to 39% for Romney and 35% for Perry.
Not everything is coming up none for Cain though. While he is on the move among Republicans, Cain trails President Obama in a recent PPP hypothetical general election horserace (48% Obama / 42% Cain).
On the Move Where It Matters
Cain's surge is not isolated to national polling, but extends to several critical early caucus and primary states. Polling in the last week has shown Cain leading in Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida.
If there is any path to the nomination for Cain, it almost certainly requires a breakthrough in Iowa paralleling the 2008 Obama victory. However, Cain has shown a willingness to eschew conventional wisdom. Instead of spending time virtually all of his time in early vote states, Cain has embarked on a book tour that takes him to stops off the traditional campaign trail. Cain's appearance on the best-seller list may confirm his business bonafides at least (if not his political savvy).
Regardless, recent polling, from PPP, among likely Iowa GOP caucus-goers has Cain with an 8-point lead over Romney (30% to 22%) with Paul, Perry, Gingrich, and Bachmann in a virtual four-way tie with 8-10% each. As with his national movement, Cain's statewide margin is driven by a 25-point lead among Tea Party supporters and a 28-point lead with "very conservative" voters. Cain must sustain his Iowa momentum where Bachmann and Perry have failed to this point; if Cain has a shot at the nomination it runs through Iowa.
Iowa's importance for Cain is underlined by his relative lack of movement in New Hampshire. NBC News polling among likely Granite State GOP primary voters has Cain a very distant second to NH neighbor Mitt Romney (43% Romney / 13% Cain / 13% Paul). While past candidates like John Kerry, Pat Buchanan, and even Barack Obama have used Iowa success to catapult themselves into New Hampshire contention, Cain has a good bit of ground to make up. However, if he can survive through New Hampshire, Cain is likely to find more favorable terrain in South Carolina and Florida - both states where the latest polling shows him in the lead.
Cain isn't the First African American Candidate with a Shot at the GOP nomination
A New York Times compilation of the most recent Presidential elections shows numerically what most observers of American politics already know: African-Americans are a core Democratic constituency and often solidify behind the Democrat nominee at a clip of 90% or higher. African American support for a Republican President hasn't reached the teens since 1976, and hit an unsurprising new low during the historic 2008 Obama election (5%).
Recent polling of likely 2012 voters shows President Obama well positioned to continue this trend.PPP numbers this month find President Obama at a 90%+ support level among African-Americans against each Republican candidate tested. Cain's 6% among African Americans is almost identical to the other GOP candidates' support.
While Cain is undoubtedly the most successful African-American Republican to actually run for President in modern political history, one need not look too far in the past to find an African-American Republican with the credentials to make a very serious bid. Prior to the 1996 campaign, Colin Powell took a very hard look at running for President as a Republican. An October 1995 NYT/CBS poll found Powell edging eventual nominee Bob Dole nationally among likely GOP primary voters (34% Powell / 29% Dole). Dartmouth and Boston Herald polls among New Hampshire GOP primary voters had Powell leading the field, outpacing both members of the eventual Republican ticket (Bob Dole and Jack Kemp) in the critical early primary state.
Powell's general election prospects were even brighter. Roughly a year out from the election, an NYT/CBS poll showed Powell leading President Clinton by double digits (40% Clinton / 51% Powell). And even after he declined to run, aMarch 1996 CNN poll found that Powell's popularity was such that his presence on a Dole ticket as VP would transform a 54% to 42% Clinton/Gore lead to a 49% to 48% dead heat.
Over one hundred years prior to the Powell flirtation, Frederick Douglas became the first African American to receive a major-party convention vote for President at the 1888 Republican National Convention. Though it's difficult to see Cain's emergence as an extension of the Douglas brand of Republicanism, the Cain phenomenon is undeniably one of the cycle's most compelling storylines.
by John Anzalone and Jeff Liszt who are Democratic pollsters. The opinion piece is from their weekly newsletter
(Headline by Bayoubuzz.com)
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