Top GOP candidates, in a word

For Herman Cain, it’s simply “9-9-9.” Rick Perry gets “Texas.” Mitt Romney, “Mormon.” Those are the words most commonly mentioned for the three leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, according to a new poll by The Washington Post and the Pew Research Center.

But for all of the colorful terms that follow, more than four in 10 adults do not offer any single-word descriptions of Cain or Perry. And despite Romney being well into his second run for president, more than a third do not have a word for him.


Herman Cain: “9-9-9,” referring to his tax plan, tops the list of descriptors for the businessman who has catapulted in the GOP campaign. Next up is a combination of “business,” “businessman,” “pizza” and “entrepreneur.” The top positive description for Cain is “interesting,” followed by “good,” “intelligent,” “likable” and “honest.” The top negative descriptions are “inexperience,” “no” and “liar.”

Rick Perry: The Texas governor is most commonly associated exactly that way, as “Texas,” with others adding “governor“ and some “Bush” or “cowboy.” Negative words come up high for Perry compared to the others, with “no” the most often mentioned on its own. Others highlight “idiot,” “stupid,” “dumb,” or “not smart.” All told, a total of 28 people questioned Perry’s intelligence.

Mitt Romney: “Mormon” is by far the most commonly associated word with Romney, with others saying “religion.” A distant second are references to health care with variants such as “health program,” “Massachusetts health care” or “RomneyCare.” Top positives are “good,” “intelligent,” “competent” and “presidential.” Top negative references for Romney are “flip-flop” and “no,” followed by “old” and “boring.”

What are your one-word descriptions for the candidates? Share your impressions in the comments section.

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Peyton M. Craighill is polling manager for the Washington Post. Peyton reports and conducts national and regional news polls for the Washington Post, with a focus on politics, elections and other social and economic issues.
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