Washington (CNN) – A new national survey of Republicans indicates that it's basically all tied up between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, with Gingrich on the rise and businessman Herman Cain falling due to the sexual harassment allegations he's been facing the past two weeks.
According to a CNN/ORC International Poll released Monday, 24% of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP say Romney is their most likely choice for their party's presidential nominee with Gingrich at 22%. Romney's two-point advantage is well within the survey's sampling error.
Full results (pdf)
While the level of support has pretty much stayed the same for Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who's making his second bid for the White House, Gingrich has seen his support jump 14 points since October.
The poll also indicates that 14 percent back Cain, down 11 points from last month. Four women have alleged that Cain sexually harassed them during the late 1990s when he headed the National Restaurant Association. Cain denies the allegations.
"Cain is struggling with the charges of sexual harassment, and while most Republicans tend to dismiss those charges, roughly four in 10 Republicans think this is a serious matter and tend to believe the women who made those charges," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.
The survey indicates that only a bare majority of Republicans tend to believe Cain, and more than a third say he should end his presidential campaign. Among the general public, Cain has a bigger credibility problem - 50% of all Americans say they tend to believe the women and only a third say they believe Cain.
"Not surprisingly, there is a big gender gap on this matter - women say this is a serious matter and believe the women, but men say the story has been overblown and are split on which side they believe," Holland added.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is at 12% in the survey, basically all even with Cain for third place in the hunt for the nomination. Perry was at 13% in CNN's October poll. The new survey was conducted Friday through Sunday, entirely after last Wednesday's presidential debate where Perry suffered an embarrassing "oops" moment when the one-time front-runner struggled for nearly a minute to name the third of three federal agencies he would cut if elected president.
While Perry's overall horse race number has not suffered, dig deeper into the poll and it appears the "oops" moment is hurting his standing with Republican voters. In September, 72% of Republicans said Perry had the right personal qualities to be president. A majority of Republicans still feel that way, but that number has dropped 14 points since September.
According to the poll, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who's making his third run for the presidency, is at 8%, with Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota at 6%, former Utah Gov. and former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania each at 3%, and 8% are unsure.
The poll's Monday release comes seven weeks and one day before the Iowa caucuses, the first contest on the primary and caucus calendar. The survey indicates that just over six in 10 Republicans say they may change their minds, with 31% say they will definitely support the candidate they are currently backing.
With Cain dropping and Perry flat-lining, it looks like it's Gingrich's turn to become the "anybody but Romney" candidate. If the GOP race becomes a two-man battle between Romney and Gingrich, the poll indicates they are well-matched. Romney and Gingrich are the two most popular Republican candidates among the GOP rank and file, and the only two with favorable ratings above 50% among the Republicans surveyed.
More than three-quarters of Republicans think both men have the right personal qualities to be president and more than seven in 10 Republicans say they agree with Gingrich and Romney on important issues.
The key difference between Romney and Gingrich is electability. For the first time in CNN's polling, Romney now tops Barack Obama in a head-to-head matchup among registered voters. But Gingrich faces an 8-point deficit when paired with Obama in a general election matchup.
"Among all Americans, 58% say that Romney has the personal qualities a president should have, compared to just 45% for Gingrich. Most Americans don't agree with either man on important issues," Holland said.
The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International, with 1,036 adults Americans, including 480 Republicans and Independents who lean Republican, as well as 552 men and 514 women, questioned by telephone. The overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points, with a sampling error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points for questions only of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP.
– CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.
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What does CNN mean when they say " most americans don't agree with either on important issues"? Which issues do they believe are the important ones? If the issue is the economy, Mitt Romney will win. 16% of Americans are either unemployed or underemployed ( working far less than they would like to)
"Newt is the smartest man running or in office hands down. His problem is that most Americans do not understand the issues nor do they care to understand the issues."
Total BS. We understand them just fine and DISAGREE with him. Learn the difference. He's an ideologue panderer who envisions a plutocratic future for this country, just like the rest of the GOP and their Teatroll army with its tinfoil hats and blinders on.
That 8% deficit will evaporate after the first head-to-teleprompter debate between Gingrich and the Reader in Chief.
I'm wishing Tim Pawlenty was still a candidate. Whether you liked his ideas or not, he was a smart, stable guy, witty too.
Unbelievable, what a poorly written article-facts all mixed up and hidden in the article.
I used to be against Newt in the past, and I am for him now 100 percent totally.
He makes a lot of sense,
Mitt – I am not sure, he used to be a liberal democrat,
maybe a Rino now , republican in name only. He could still be a good president
"Newt will fall when everyone starts talking about him divorcing is dying wife.."
Newt's daughter said it never happen. Tell me why would anyone have to divorce someone who was dying? Wouldn't easier and faster to let them die?
They're all worthless. Each and every one of them. So, Gingrich is the "flavor of the week?" How could even one far-right evangelical vote for a guy with his moral and ethical background? Impossible. They are all completely worthless.
Remember, Newt is the hypocrite who was leading the charge against Clinton And Monica while he was cheating on his own wife with another women. I would not hire him to clean my house let alone be my president.
Only Romney stands a chance against Obama. The rest wouldn't get 100 electoral votes.
People who think Gingrich is better for this country than Ron Paul deserve another four years of Obama.
This is just another one that will basically fall in the numbers like all the others. This process for the GOP just shows they have no real candidate that can challenge the President!! I mean really you would think by now a clear front runner would be standing out. Yet even with Mitt still managing to hold the top spot, his numbers are really low!! When the media and Mitt folks start releasing statements about Newt marriages he will tank too. LOL.......Obama 2012!!!
Cain is on a book tour
Newt has the intelligence and integrity to take the nomination in the GOP
Romney, while a solid candidate, can't really connect to Middle Class America as a corporate businessman.
If Newt becomes the front runner, we'll hear over and over, 'If you didnt have the guts to stick it out with your dying wife, why should we believe that you'd stand by America in her most dire times?"
obama's follower and the main stream media are now demonizing Newt because Newt is too smart for obama to BS.It would be nice to see a debate between obama and Newt.Unless Newt's poll number goes down there will be a relentless demonizing of Newt.Obama could not run on his record.
IDIOTS! Newt was in the process of a divorce before his wife was even diagnosed with cancer. Also, the woman is still VERY MUCH ALIVE! Liberals like to spread this LIE over and over again hoping the truth does not come out. Unfortunately for the liars, Jackie Battley Gingrich is still and so is his daughter who have refuted their claims time and time again. Who would you believe?
I hope Gingrich gets the nod. He'll be destroyed in the General election when the truth come out about his involvement with Gramm Leach Blily, insider trading in the House, and canpaign financing payola. His contract with America was all for himself.
CNN, it wasn't the allegations against Cain that caused his decrease in numbers, it was his inadequate response to them that caused the fall.
The responses to questions on Cain are all over the board and don't make a lot of sense. Non-whites don't want him to stay in the race but they think the press was irresponsible in their reporting of the issue. What does that tell you?
In other words.... desperation is seeping into the GOP camp.
Ann Coulter did an excellent job on Cain's accusers all from Chicago, tied to Axelrod and the like. It is a shame the rest of the media didn't do their homework. Cain may not be the most qualified, but he is certainly more qualified than Obama. The hatchet job done on this man is a disgrace. I don't care for Newt, but any of these candidates would do circles around Obama.
Didn't the Republican Party used to be the party of family values? I guess that doesn't matter now that their favorite candidates have none.
"The majority of Independents have indicated in all state/national polls, that they WILL support/vote for Romney over Obama. Unemployment and our economy are not going to miraculously recover in one year. Gas/food prices will not go down in one year. if Romney wins the nomination-–he WILL be elected in November 2012!!!"
I willing to bet that you think if Romney wins then that miracle will happen and the economy will suddenly recover within a year, right? You GOP supporters really need to recognize reality. President Obama is working hard to try to get all of the Bush/Cheney mess cleaned up and, yes, it will take more than 4 years to do so. He's had a good start and putting someone else in as President (especially since it would be a Republican) would undo any progress the President has made and we will be right back where we started from in 2008. Nobody wants that!!
One of Newt's ex-wives says that he believes in one thing for the masses and another for himself and he's definitely an ends-justifies-the-means type of guy. But my main complaint is that he is largely responsible for the present tone in Washington. When he was in congress and speaker he developed the idea of using language to demonize the opposition. He's about half as smart as he thinks he is.
Finally! Newt has been the best candidate all along and has clearly won the debates. He would make a better "candidate" if his personal past was cleaner, but his clear understanding of liberal damage to our country will make him a great leader at this time.
Romney deserves a crack at fixing the economy. He is the most qualified. Obama hasn't done anything, things have gotten worse, and we can't afford to sit around wasting four more years.