After spending months languishing in the bottom tier of a crowded Republican primary field, businessman Herman Cain’s fortunes have been revived by a surge in support that has catapulted him into the top tier of the field. As Sandhya Somashekar reported:

For months, Herman Cain languished on the margins of the Republican presidential campaign. But in the past few weeks, something happened that even Cain did not see coming. He became a front-runner for the nomination.

The Atlanta businessman has shot up in the polls and become a ubiquitous presence on national television. His “9-9-9” plan to reform the tax code has become a household term. His sense of humor and upbeat style have injected a bit of light into a campaign that has centered on the gloom of the economy.

Cain, who brought to the race no obvious constituency to back him, has benefited as other conservative favorites took turns in the spotlight and then fell away, bowing out — or flaming out. But he also has used a series of televised debates to raise his profile and establish himself as a powerful communicator with a simple plan to restart the economy.

“My message of common-sense solutions is resonating with people,” Cain said in an interview. “People around the country are starting to know who I am and starting to identify me with solutions, not rhetoric.”

Cain said he had long expected to gain momentum, but he did not foresee the recent “explosion” of interest in his campaign. Last month, he overwhelmingly won a Florida GOP straw poll, and in a recent Washington Post poll he tied with Texas Gov. Rick Perry for second place, with 16 percent.

But it is not at all clear that Cain can maintain his momentum or support a successful presidential campaign.

He has committed some early missteps, saying he would not appoint a Muslim to his Cabinet and stumbling on questions about the Middle East and the war in Afghanistan. He has since said he is aggressively studying up on foreign policy and that he meant to say he would not appoint a “jihadist” to his Cabinet.

After speaking at the Values Voters summit in Washington D.C. on Friday, Cain will make two campaign stops in Virginia. As Anita Kumar explained :

Herman Cain, an Atlanta businessman, will sign copies of his book at Liberty University in Lynchburg Saturday, then speak at the Family Foundation’s annual gala at the convention center in Richmond.

The gala, which has drawn big names such as former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee in past years, is expected to attract 1,000 people.

Last month, Cain overwhelmingly won a Florida GOP straw poll, and in a recent Washington Post poll he tied with Texas Gov. Rick Perry for second place, with 16 percent.

Last month, Perry visited Liberty and headlined a fundraiser for the state GOP attended by more than 1,000 Republican activists. Last week, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) spoke to 10,000 at Liberty, the school founded by the late televangelist Jerry Falwell.

Herman Cain will certainly see more action in the next GOP debate because of his rising poll numbers, but he is not the only one who could lose big at the next debate. As Chris Cillizza reported:

The Washington Post and Bloomberg News are sponsoring an economic-focused debate among the 2012 Republican presidential candidates at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire on Tuesday.

The economy is the dominant issue of both the Republican primary fight and next year's general election so each of the candidates have a considerable amount riding on their debate performance.

Our question for you: Which of the Republican presidential candidates has the most at stake at the debate?

Is it former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney who has staked his campaign on the economic know-how he learned in the private sector? Or Texas Gov. Rick Perry whose job creation successes in the Lonestar State have formed the foundation of his nascent campaign? What about businessman Herman Cain who is the fastest rising star in the GOP field? Or is is someone else?

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