Polling shows that despite insurgent momentum from businessman Herman Cain, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney leads the Republican field in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida — the first four primary and caucus states. With 69 days left until the Iowa caucuses, however, many GOP voters remain undecided. The poll results are from a CNN/Time/ORC poll conducted from October 20 to October 25
Romney leads by large margins in Florida and New Hampshire, but Cain is close on his heels in Iowa and South Carolina.
In Iowa, which will hold the first nominating contest of the year on January 3, Romney has a 24–21 lead over Cain despite having spent minimal time there. Texas Congressman Ron Paul is in third place with 12 percent. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Texas Governor Rick Perry tie for fourth with 10 percent.
Late-term campaigning could pay dividends for all the candidates, as Iowa caucus-goers still remain largely undecided — even more than voters in other early states. Just 23 percent say they are locked into supporting a specific candidate; 62 percent say they could change their minds.
In New Hampshire, Romney maintains what looks to be an insurmountable lead, attracting 40 percent of the vote compared to Cain’s 13 percent. Paul is a close third with 12 percent. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman makes a fourth-place showing with 6 percent, in one of the few polls where he has broken the two-percent barrier.
New Hampshire voters are more set at this point than Iowa voters, with 32 percent saying they will definitely vote for the candidate they currently support; 48 percent say they could change their mind.
Romney barely leads Cain in South Carolina 25–23. Paul is in third at 12 percent, followed by Perry at 11 percent.
Just under one-third of South Carolina voters say they are sure of their choice at this point.
Romney’s lead over Cain in Florida is a much wider 30–18 margin. Gingrich and Perry are tied with 9 percent. Just 28 percent of Florida voters say they have made a firm choice.
One Republican consultant told TheDC on Thursday that although Romney has slipped to second place in some national polls, his lead in early states is a most telling sign that he remains a firm front-runner.
“No matter what useless national polls have shown the past several months, the reality is that Romney is the front-runner because of his lead in these early states,” the consultant said. “He is as steady as your grandpa’s old pick-up; he is the guy you want your daughter to marry.”
“If Romney unravels and loses, some of it can be laid on the whole group’s cautious approach to this campaign,” the consultant added. “Someone like Perry or Cain have the ability to catch fire because they both seem willing to roll the dice on issues and as a result, catch fire with 2/3 of these Republican voters who are really up to grab … Worst thing that can happen to Romney is someone catching fire and capturing the imagination and fire in the belly of these restless Republican voters.”
“No one has a straight shot — history tells us this,” Republican consultant Phillip Stutts added. “But it seems that it’s Romney vs. everyone else, although Perry will end up being the biggest beneficiary of a Romney fall, especially WHEN Cain slides — which he will.
“Paul might get some momentum as well, but he will eventually roll away,” Stutts predicted. “If Iowa gets muddled with a second tier candidate win (like Cain or Paul) and Romney wins NH by a slim margin (to Perry) — then South Carolina might be where the race will be decided.”