Businessman Herman Cain has surged into the top tier of presidential candidates in Virginia, according to a new poll of the state, moving into a tie in the Republican nomination contest with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has faded considerably.

The Quinnipiac University Poll of Virginia released Tuesday shows Romney and Cain at 21 percent apiece among Republican voters, while Perry sits at 11 percent--less than half the support he registered in the same poll a month ago.

Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) gets 9 percent, while Rep. Michelle Bachmann (Minn.) and former House speaker Newt Gingrich receive 7 percent apiece.

In the general election contest, President Obama is within the margin of error in matchups with Romney and Cain, and has a 5-point lead over Perry. Obama’s disapproval rating sits at 49 percent, slightly better than in the previous survey.

The last Quinnipiac poll of Virginia, released in mid-September, pegged Obama’s disapproval rating at 54 percent. It showed him trailing Romney by two points and leading Perry by two, both within the margin of error. That poll showed Romney leading Perry in the GOP primary, 25 percent to 19 percent.

Cain lagged far behind, polling at 6 percent.

“Herman Cain is moving up the ladder at breakneck speed,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling institute, in a news release.

“The race among Virginia Republicans remains far, far from settled,” Brown added. “Romney’s support remains relatively stable while other candidates rise and fall around him.”

As Cain has risen, Perry has moved in the opposite direction. He now has an approval rating of 22 percent and a disapproval rating of 35 percent, while Cain’s rating is 30-15.

Obama, who in 2008 was the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Virginia since Lyndon Johnson, is again focusing on the commonwealth as a key battleground for 2012. Republicans believe the state will be much harder for him to win a second time.

Indeed, the president’s support in the state has clearly dropped since May, when a Washington Post poll gave him a 52 percent approve, 43 percent disapprove rating.

The latest poll shows the likely Senate matchup between former governors Timothy M. Kaine (D) and George Allen (R) essentially tied, with Kaine receiving 45 percent to Allen’s 44 percent. Several other surveys taken since the race began have yielded similar results.

The September survey had Allen at 45 percent, and Kaine at 44 percent in their head-to-head matchup. Both month’s results are well within the poll’s margin of error.

The new Quinnipiac University poll surveyed 1,459 registered voters Oct. 3-9, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percent.