Cain Leads Romney in Latest Poll; Tea Party Support Grows

Six months ago, Atlanta businessman and former Federal Reserve board member Herman Cain had virtually zero name recognition. Now, heading into the trick-or-treat political season, he’s maintaining his status as the frontrunner in the latest CBS News/New York Times poll that was released on Tuesday.

Of the 1,475 interviews that were conducted of registered voters, 25 percent said they were supporting Cain, while 21 percent gave their nod to Romney. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was the only other candidate in double digits, coming in at 10 percent.

Given the polls four percent margin of error, Cain and Romney are virtually tied for the lead. However, the significant story is how quickly Cain has risen, compared to how quickly Texas Gov. Rick Perry has fallen.

In the same poll conducted on Sept. 16, Cain had 5 percent and Perry had 23 percent support. In just over five weeks, those numbers are essentially flipped for the two gentlemen.

The one consistency over the same five-week period is that former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman are both still at 1 percent.

Among voters who identified themselves as being aligned with the Tea Party, Cain expanded his lead over Romney by 14 percentage points with a 32-18 lead. Even among the more conservative Tea Party activists, Cain and Perry reversed their numbers from the same poll taken just five weeks prior.

“What’s striking is how big a hill Rick Perry is going to have to climb to get back into this race,” said CBS political analyst Jan Crawford on The Early Show today.

“Rick Perry could make a comeback, but he’s got to win Iowa,” said Republican strategist Charlie Black who appeared alongside Crawford. “Standing between Perry and a victory in Iowa is Herman Cain. I think Iowa is a toss-up and I think Michele Bachmann is still competitive there.”

Bachmann’s campaign has struggled as of late from what appears to be a lack of focus and poor communication. Last weekend, her entire New Hampshire campaign team resigned en masse, citing a lack of communication with the national campaign team and the campaign’s decision to place the majority of their resources and emphasis in Bachmann’s birth state of Iowa.

But the race is far from over. One of the more telling signs is that voters are just starting to pay attention to the GOP race. Almost four out of five voters said it was still too early for them to make up their minds. Only 19 percent of those polled said they had already decided whom they would vote for in their state’s primary election.

The poll was conducted October 19-24, 2011, among registered voters on both landline and cellular phones.