Goeas: Cain Leads, But Support Eroding
Herman Cain sits atop the Republican presidential field in the new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Poll released Monday.
A deeper look at the numbers, however, suggests recently revealed past sexual harassment claims against Cain have caused some voters to reconsider their support. A high-profile press conference held by one accuser, Sharon Bialek, and her attorney Gloria Allred last Monday seems to have been a tipping point.
Among likely Republican voters surveyed Sunday, Nov. 6, Cain led the field with 40 percent. On Monday, he was third with 22 percent. By Wednesday, just 19 percent of those surveyed said they supported Cain for the nomination.
“As this moves forward, I think it does become more and more a deal-breaker.”
Cain must grapple with a dearth of support from women. Among Republican men, Cain led with 32 percent. Among women, however, he won 21 percent support.
President Barack Obama led Cain 49 percent to 40 percent in a head-to-head matchup. Among women, the president trounced the former National Restaurant Association CEO by an 18-point margin, 53 to 35 percent.
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of Cain’s decline is Romney. Last Wednesday, 40 percent of those reached supported the former Massachusetts governor. In the full sample, based on four days of national polling, Romney finished second with 25 percent (behind Cain’s 27 percent). Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry tied for third at 14 percent.
Asked who they would support if Cain was not in the race, Cain supporters broke evenly for Romney and Newt Gingrich. Each saw a 7 percent overall increase if Cain was not an option. The two Texans in the race also got a boost: Rep. Ron Paul by 5 percent, and Perry by 3 percent.
Goeas, who worked for Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s campaign earlier this cycle, said Cain was destined to fade.
“My belief has been on Cain from the very beginning of him kind of surging in the polls that he was a safe haven, if you will, for the Republican primary voters because they had been whiplashed around by several of the candidates,” Goeas said.
The poll finds GOP voters increasingly coming to terms with the reality that Romney is likely to be their nominee. Asked who they believe will win the primary contest, regardless of who they want to win, 48 percent named Romney.
Cain was second with 22 percent. Only 6 percent said Perry, and 3 percent identified Gingrich. The other candidates — Bachmann, former Pennslyvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman — did not even register.
Goeas said many Republicans bristled earlier this year at the notion that it was Romney’s turn to be nominee. John McCain’s defeat in 2008 generated resistance among base voters to choosing whoever was considered next in line, he said.
“I actually think his numbers right now are a floor, as opposed to a ceiling,” Goeas said of Romney’s 25 percent finish in the poll. “You see him getting as big of a chunk of the Cain vote as any of the other candidates. His ceiling is more that 48 percent, that once [voters] come to the conclusion that they put him through the ringer and are not just going with the next one in line but with the candidate they want, you’ll see him start growing toward that 48 percent.
“If anything, in all the numbers, that’s probably the best news from a Romney standpoint,” he said.