Las Vegas, Nevada (CNN) - What's the secret to Herman Cain's recent surge in polls in the race for the GOP presidential nomination?
A new national survey out hours before a CNN/Western Republican presidential debate points towards likeability and the businessman and former Godfather's Pizza CEO's much touted "9-9-9" tax reform plan.
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According to the CNN/ORC International Poll released Tuesday morning, 34% of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP say that Cain is the most likable candidate in the race, putting him at the top of the list a few points ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
"The same pattern holds when we ask about the economy," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Among Republicans, 33% say that Cain is most likely to get the economy moving, again putting him in the top spot."
But electability may be Cain's Achilles heel. Only 18% of Republicans say that Cain is most likely to win the GOP nomination, and only a quarter say he has the best chance of beating President Barack Obama in the general election.
Who is the most electable candidate, according to GOP voters?
"Mitt Romney - and it's not even close," says Holland. "Four in ten Republicans say that Romney is most likely to get the party's nomination, and 51% say he has the best chance of beating Obama in the fall. On both those measures, Romney's numbers have improved dramatically, while Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been sinking like a stone."
In September, 41% thought Perry had the best chance to win the nomination; that's now down to 14%. More than four in ten thought in September that the Texas governor had the best chance to beat Obama; that has dropped 30 points. Perry was also seen in September as the most likable candidate and the one with the best economic policies, but Cain has now stolen Perry's thunder on both of those measures.
The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International on Oct. 14-16, with 1,007 adults, including 416 Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus five percentage points.
–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report