Washington (CNN) – Talk about going from zero to 60 in no time.
Go back just a month or two, and Herman Cain was near the bottom of the field of candidates in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Fast-forward to present day, and the businessman, former Godfather's Pizza CEO and radio talk show host is battling for the top spot.
A new CNN Poll of Polls of the GOP race indicates that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is on top of the field of candidates, at 23%, with Cain just three points behind, at 20%. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was the front-runner in the national polls in the race for the Republican presidential nomination from late August through much of September, is at 14%, followed at 10% by Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who's making his third bid for the White House.
The CNN Poll of Polls, an average of the latest four national surveys in the GOP race, was compiled and released on Thursday. It indicates former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in fifth place, at 6%, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota at 5%, and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and former Utah Gov. and U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman at 2%. Eighteen percent are supporting other candidates or are undecided.
In one of the surveys used to compile the CNN Poll of Polls, from NBC/Wall Street Journal, Cain is on top, with the support of 27% of likely GOP primary voters, with Romney, who's making his second bid for the Republican nomination, at 23%. Cain's four point advantage is within the survey's sampling error.
Cain's been surging in national polls in the crucial states that vote early in primary and caucus calendar, thanks in part to his "9-9-9" tax plan, which calls for a 9% national sales tax, a 9% personal income tax rate, and a 9% corporate tax rate.
Much of Cain's new support may be coming from Perry's drop in the most recent surveys, thanks in part to his uneven performance at the GOP presidential debates, his poor showing at a much-watched straw poll in Florida in late September, and the constant attacks he endured from rival campaigns over his stance on illegal immigration, border security, and Social Security.
The current CNN Poll of Polls is an average of four national polls taken entirely in October: the NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll (October 6-10); the Reuters/Ipsos Poll (October 6-10); the Washington Post/Bloomberg Poll (October 6-9) and the Gallup poll (October 3-7). All of the surveys were conducted before this Tuesday's GOP debate in New Hampshire. The Poll of Polls does not have a sampling error.
While not as crucial as polls in the early primary and caucus voting states, national surveys are a closely-watched barometer of the popularity of the candidates and a gauge of the strength of their campaigns.