Businessman Herman Cain may have stolen the hearts and minds of Republican and independent voters, but former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is still considered the likely GOP presidential nominee and the candidate with the best chance of beating President Barack Obama next year, according to a CNN/ORC International poll released Tuesday.
An aura of inevitability appears to have settled around Romney, with a 51-percent majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents saying they see him as the most likely Republican nominee. Just 18 percent said they expected the nominee to be Cain, and 14 percent predicted Rick Perry. No other candidate polled in double digits.
The most likeable candidate, however, is Cain — with 34 percent saying they like him most. Romney is a close second, with 29 percent, followed by Perry at 13 percent. Independents, in particular, are very fond of him, with 44 percent saying he is the most likeable, and just 29 percent saying Romney is. Among Republicans, the two run neck and neck, with 28 percent each.
Cain is also the top candidate when voters are asked which candidate is most in line with their views on major issues. Twenty-six percent chose Cain, while 21 percent picked Romney, and 16 percent chose Perry. Independents are very much in Cain’s corner, with 34 percent saying he is the candidate most likely to agree with him — and just 20 percent siding with Romney.
With a 33 percent showing, Republicans also see the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO as the candidate who is most likely to get the economy moving again. Romney attracted 26 percent of answers to that poll question, and 14 percent chose Rick Perry. Again, independents prefer Cain to Romney, 43 percent to 24 percent.
Despite their growing support for Cain, Republican primary voters still believe Romney has the best chance of defeating President Obama in a general election. Fully 41 percent said Romney is the most electable, while 24 percent chose Cain and 12 percent picked Perry. That represents a significant turnaround from September, when 42 percent said Perry was the most electable candidate, 26 percent said it was Romney, and just 3 percent said Herman Cain was the most electable GOP hopeful.
Cain rocketed to the top of the polls in recent weeks, but it remains to be seen whether he will stay there, or if he will fall back to single digits again, following the pattern of other candidates like Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry.
The CNN/ORC results are based on telephone interviews with 416 Republicans from October 14 through October 16, as part of a larger survey of 1,007 American adults. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.