Herman Cain's poll momentum is continuing for at least another week. PPP surveys conducted over the weekend in Ohio and Hawaii find him with a large lead in both states. That now makes 7 consecutive polls over the last 3 weeks- a national one and state polls in Ohio, Hawaii, Iowa, North Carolina, Nebraska, and West Virginia- that have found Cain leading the way.
In Ohio Cain's at 34% to 19% for Mitt Romney, 14% for Newt Gingrich, 7% for Ron Paul, 6% for Michele Bachmann, 5% for Rick Perry, 1% each for Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum, and 0% for Gary Johnson.
In Hawaii Cain's at 36% to 24% for Romney, 8% for Gingrich and Perry, 6% for Bachmann, 4% for Paul, and 1% each for Huntsman, Johnson, and Santorum.
Tea Party voters continue to be the primary driver of Cain's momentum. In Ohio he gets 46% of their support to 15% for Gingrich and 11% for Bachmann with Romney finishing all the way back in 4th place at 9%. It's a similar story in Hawaii- there Cain and Romney actually tie at 30% each among non-Tea Party Republicans. But with the Tea Pary crowd Cain gets a whooping 52% to 12% for Bachmann and 9% for Romney. These numbers represent a recurring theme in our polls- Romney doesn't necessarily need to win Tea Pary voters but he sure needs to not lose them by 40 points if he hopes to win the nomination.
Cain's leads are impressive but they're also soft. In Ohio only 36% of his supporters say they're solidly committed to him and in Hawaii it's only 35%. He's just one misstep away from losing two thirds of his support. That's reflective of the vast uncertainty in the broader race- only 29% of Hawaii Republicans say that they're currently strongly committed to any candidate and in Ohio the figure is just 26%. There's a very wide swath of the GOP base still shopping for a candidate.
The big loser in these polls is Rick Perry. The low numbers of Republicans planning to vote for him is a concern but his even bigger issue is that GOP voters are now saying that they just flat out don't like him. In Ohio his favorability is 40/42 with the primary electorate and in Hawaii it's 36/40. His problem isn't that Republican voters just like someone else better than him- it's that at this point they don't even like him at all. He has some serious image rehabilitation to do to get back in this race.
In addition to Cain the other candidate continuing to show some surprising momentum in Newt Gingrich. He gets a solo third in Ohio and a tie for third in Hawaii, and the numbers in the Buckeye State show the improvement in his image over the last 5 months. When PPP last tested his favorability in May he was at 42/34 with primary voters. Now that's improved to 56/32 and the only Republican with a better net favorability is Cain.
If it came down to just Cain and Romney, Cain would lead 50-36 in Ohio and 49-34 in Hawaii. For now he's in the driver's seat. But we've seen time and again in this GOP race that the driver's seat can be a dangerous place to be.
Full results here