Can Herman Cain leverage his fervent support base to boost primary bid?

October 6, 2011

Herman Cain might not be the frontrunner in the polls for the 2012 GOP primary, but he has several things to be happy with, among them that his supporters more fervently support him than those of his rivals. As Scott Clement reported:

The 2012 GOP primary race has seen candidates rapidly rise and fall over the span of weeks, and the latest to make his move is businessman Herman Cain, who charged from 4 percent to 16 percent in a new Post-ABC poll released Tuesday. Not to be written off as the next flavor of the month, Cain claims his supporters “do not defect.” Is he right? Post-ABC polls shed some light on the issue. Twice as many Cain supporters say they support him ”strongly” as say the same about Mitt Romney and more than any other announced candidate.

Fully 55 percent of Cain’s supporters in combined Post-ABC polls this summer and fall say they support him “strongly,” while 45 percent only back him “somewhat.” By contrast, 34 percent of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s supporters back him “strongly,” as do 24 percent of Romney’s backers. Perhaps surprisingly given his strong support at activist-heavy straw polls, only 18 percent who choose Ron Paul for the GOP nomination support him “strongly.”

Only Sarah Palin—who has not entered the race for the nomination—boasts similar levels of “strong” support. Some 53 percent of her supporters do so “strongly,” while 47 percent support her “somewhat.”

Intensity doesn’t always equal consistency. Cain has led Gallup’s measure of positive intensity— a combination of strongly favorable and unfavorable views—throughout the year. Still, he failed to rise consistently into double digits until earning 17 percent in a Fox News and Quinnipiac polls in the past week and, as mentioned, 16 percent in the new Post-ABC poll.

The latest Washington Post/ABC poll showed Herman Cain continuing to gain on the frontrunner Mitt Romney, and is now tied with former frontrunner Rick Perry. As Dan Balz and Jon Cohen explained :

Among announced candidates — without Christie or Palin in the race — Romney leads with 25 percent, which is identical to his support from a month ago. Perry and Cain are tied for second with 16 percent, numbers representing a 13-point drop for Perry and a 12-point rise for Cain since early September.

Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) is the only other candidate in double figures, at 11 percent. Just behind him are former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), both with 7 percent. Gingrich’s support has held steady through the late summer. Bachmann’s numbers fell sharply after Perry announced his candidacy.

Former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.) and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr. bring up the rear, with Santorum at 2 percent and Huntsman at 1 percent.

If Christie and Palin are included in the hypothetical matchup, he checks in at 10 percent and she at 9 percent.

Herman Cain’s rise was underscored by his book’s jump into the top ten on Amazon.com on Tuesday. As AP reported:

Herman Cain is surging in the polls and on the best-seller charts.

“This is Herman Cain,” a newly released memoir by the businessman and Republican presidential candidate, was in the top 10 on Amazon.com as of Tuesday afternoon. Copies of the hardcover were out of stock until Friday, although the book also is available in the e-edition.

Interest has taken off since Cain unexpectedly won the Florida straw poll on Sept. 24. “This is Herman Cain” was published Tuesday by Threshold Editions, a conservative imprint of Simon & Schuster where authors also include former Vice President Dick Cheney and commentator Glenn Beck. In his memoir, Cain looks back to growing under segregation in the South and ahead to his hoped for ascendance to the White House.

The former head of Godfather’s Pizza has been widely regarded as a longshot for the nomination, but is now among the GOP leaders in new surveys from North Carolina, West Virginia and Nebraska. The field remains unsettled as doubts remain about former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the presumed front-runner. Republican officials had urged New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to enter the race, but he announced Tuesday he wasn’t running.

Cain’s rise has come at the same time support has dropped for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose book “Fed Up” soon created problems for his campaign with its references to Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme” and a “crumbling monument to the failure of the New Deal.”

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