Yesterday PPP released numbers showing Herman Cain leading Mitt Romney 30-22 in Iowa and our monthly look at the national picture finds the exact same numbers. Cain is up 30-22 on Romney with Newt Gingrich sneaking past Rick Perry for 3rd place at 15% to Perry's 14% with Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul tied for 5th at 5%, Jon Huntsman 7th at 2%, Rick Santorum 8th at 1%, and Gary Johnson 9th with less than 1%.
Strong Tea Party support has Cain in the driver's seat nationally, just as he has been on our last four individual state polls. With non-Tea Party Republicans Romney actually leads Cain 29-27. But with the Tea Party crowd Cain is getting 39% with Gingrich at 16%, Perry at 14%, and Romney in 4th place at 13%. Romney doesn't need to win the Tea Partiers to be the Republican nominee. But he does need to finish better than 4th with them.
There are indications within the poll that Cain's stay at the top could be short lived. Only 30% of his supporters are solidly committed to him with 70% saying they might still go on to support someone else. Those numbers aren't much better for Romney, who only has 31% of his supporters solidly committed, or Gingrich, who only has 34% solidly committed. The strongest base of support among the Republican front runners- even if it's shrinking- is Perry's- 48% of his remaining backers say they'll definitely vote for him. Overall 70% of Republicans are either undecided right now or open to voting for someone different than who they're with now- that signals an extremely wide open race.
Other notes on our national poll:
-For whatever reason there's no doubt Gingrich is the candidate besides Cain who's had the most momentum on their side in the last month. His net favorability has increased 20 points from +7 at 46/39 to +27 at 57/30. And his share of the vote has increased from 10% to 15%. In an extremely fluid field he could yet prove to be a serious contender.
-Michele Bachmann really could end up with no support. Not only is she down to 5%, but only 18% of her supporters are sure that they'll end up voting for her. That puts her solid support below 1%. If she realizes it's over and drops out before the end of the year Cain would be the largest beneficiary. 46% of Bachmann's few remaining backers say he's their second choice with no one else getting more than 17% second choice support.
-Although the openness of Cain's supporters to voting for someone else makes his leading position tenuous, you can also make the argument that he has the greatest potential for building on his current level of support in a meaningful way. 24% of GOP voters say he's their second choice with no one else above 15%- that's Gingrich and he's followed by Romney at 12% and Perry and Bachmann at 10%. Romney and Perry may continue to be viewed as the most likely nominees but there aren't a lot of people currently not in their camps who are open to joining them.
-This almost doesn't seem worth commenting on anymore but Perry's support is down 17 points from a month ago, from 31% to 14%. And his net favorability has declined 3o points from +34 (58/24) to only +4 (42/38).
-I'm a little surprised Rick Santorum hasn't had a surge yet given all the unrest in the Republican field. He has pretty solid favorability numbers at +25 (43/18). That makes him more popular than Romney (narrowly) and Perry and Bachmann by a wide margin. Only Cain and Gingrich do better among the GOP contenders.
-I'm not at all surprised that Jon Huntsman hasn't had a surge yet. He continues to be unpopular with Republican primary voters- 20% see him positively to 31% with a negative opinion. He is particularly unpopular with Tea Partiers at 20/40.
-Part of Cain's rise is because Republican voters are comfortable with where he stands ideologically. 71% say his views are 'about right.' That compares to only 53% for Perry and 51% for Romney. Romney's problem is almost all with people who think he's too liberal- 31% of primary voters. Concerns with Perry are more divided- 17% think he's too liberal, but 14% think he's too conservative.
-If the race came down to a two way match between Cain and Romney, Cain leads 48-36. Cain would pick up Bachmann, Gingrich, Perry, and Santorum's supporters. Romney would get Huntsman and Paul's. Cain would absolutely crush Perry in a head to head, 55-27. He would win over the supporters of every other candidate, including Romney's by a 56-24 margin. Romney's supporters really don't like Perry. It seems so last month to even mention this but Romney leads Perry 48-38 now in a head to head- that's a 22 point reversal from September when Perry had a 49-37 advantage on that question.
-Republican voters are still evenly divided about whether or not Barack Obama was born in the United States- 39% say he was, 39% say he wasn't. Although it's been speculated that the birther movement is about race Cain actually leads the way with those voters at 25% to 17% for Gingrich, 12% for Romney, and 10% for Perry.
Full results here