3 new PPP polls conducted over the weekend in Ohio, Mississippi, and Iowa's 18th Senate District suggest that Herman Cain is weathering the storm so far and benefiting from intense distrust of the media by the Republican base.
Cain leads in Ohio with 34% to 20% for Newt Gingrich, 19% for Mitt Romney, 5% each for Ron Paul and Rick Perry, 4% for Michele Bachmann, 2% for Jon Huntsman, and 1% each for Gary Johnson and Rick Santorum. These numbers are particularly notable because PPP polled in Ohio just 3 weeks ago- Cain's 34% now is the exact same share he had then, with Romney standing steady and Gingrich up 5 points. At least in that state Cain hadn't lost any support at all as of the weekend.
In Iowa Senate District 18, where a special election today will determine control of the Iowa State Senate, Cain leads as well with 25% to 16% for Gingrich and Romney, 9% for Paul, 7% for Perry, 6% for Bachmann, 3% for Huntsman and Santorum, and 1% for Johnson.
And in Mississippi we see evidence for the impending Newt surge, although Cain is doing pretty well there too. Gingrich is at 28% to 25% for Cain, 14% for Perry, 12% for Romney, 5% for Bachmann, 4% for Paul, and 1% each for Huntsman, Johnson, and Santorum.
How is Cain holding up so well despite all the allegations swirling around him? Mostly because voters don't believe them- in Ohio only 17% think the accusations against Cain are 'mostly true' and that number is 22% in Mississippi and 17% in Iowa SD-18. There's a lot of doubt about whether Cain's really guilty of what he's been accused of.
The doubt about Cain's misdeeds seems to be driven by intense distrust of the media. 72% of Republicans in Ohio, 71% in Iowa Senate District 18, and 65% in Mississippi think the media has been mostly unfair to Cain. We also asked whether GOP voters thought the Obama campaign, one of the other Republican campaigns, or the media was most responsible for these allegations coming to the surface and a plurality of voters in all three states blame the media.
Cain hasn't suffered much too far but there are some signs of trouble down the road for him. Even though he didn't lose any support in Ohio, his favorability numbers have taken a hit. In mid-October he was at +55 (68/13). That's now declined to +44 (64/20) So he has seen an 11 point drop on that front. And his support remains soft- just 42% of his supporters in Ohio and Mississippi and 39% in Iowa are firmly committed to him. That means if voters ever do start to become more concerned about these allegations they've already shown a willingness to jump ship.
And if Cain does eventually implode, Newt Gingrich is well positioned to become the new Republican front runner. He's running ahead of Romney in both Ohio and Mississippi, and tied with him in the Iowa district. Beyond that he is the second choice of Cain's supporters in all three of the places we polled over the weekend. In Ohio he's the second choice of 38% of Cain voters to 19% for Romney and 12% for Perry. In Mississippi he's the second choice of 28% of Cain voters to 19% for Perry and 17% for Romney. And in Iowa SD-18 he's the second choice of 24% of Cain voters to 22% for Bachmann and 16% for Perry.
Gingrich has had a massive improvement in his image over the last six months. When we polled Ohio in May his favorability was +8 at 42/34. Now it's improved by 30 points to +38 at 62/24. And he's seen an improvement in Mississippi as well where he was at +34 (58/24) when we polled in April and is now up to +41 (63/22). Newt is definitely rising and could really find himself in good shape if Cain's troubles continue.
Perry continues to struggle. In Ohio his favorability is 35/43 and in Iowa it's 38/44. Even in Mississippi, a southern state where he ostensibly should have stronger support, he's at only 47/33. The problem for Perry right now isn't just that Republicans aren't supporting him- it's that a lot of them don't even like him. That's going to make it hard for him to benefit if Cain does implode.
These numbers aren't terribly encouraging for Romney either. We keep on hearing that he's going to build his support but he's not getting any more popular with Republican voters. In May he was at 55/25 (+30) with Ohio voters. Now he's at +10 (47/37), a 20 point drop. In April he was at +12 (48/36) with Mississippi voters. Now he's dipped into negative territory at 40/44, just another data point showing his difficulty connecting with Republicans in the deep South and in places with very conservative electorates. GOP voters definitely still aren't warming up to him and it's lo0king more and more like if he does snag the nomination it's just going to be by default.
Less than 2 months away from Iowa things couldn't be a whole lot more up in the air.
Full results here