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.
CNN Poll: Support rises for health insurance mandate
Democrats obsessed with Romney?
Cain 'totally respects women,' wife says
Obama debating Gingrich will be like when Al Sharpton tried to take on Christian Hitchens. Could be an HBO pay for view.
Newt is a CREEP of the first order. It has NOTHING to do with his politics. He would be a CREEP if he were a Liberal Deomocrat. I don't know, has someone who makes people's skin crawl ever been elected President? Nixon, maybe, but we found that out afterwards. Clinton was another case-he couldn't do wrong no matter what he did wrong for some voters. That had something to do with selling his soul to the devil.
Good job JUSTUSTHEM
The only reasonable Republican choice is Huntsman... and that's his problem. Conservatives appear to have interest in a reasonable candidate. President Obama clearly offers the best leadership for all Americans, not just the wealthy.
Anybody but Obama in 2012. Anybody is infinitely more qualified than Obama (who has never held a private sector job & still won't release his college transcripts or thesis) and who lies like a rug constantly while killing jobs and the country between his endless vacations and golf while rewarding Illegals (like his uncle Omar and Aunt on MA Welfare - Obama is rich, why doesn't he take care of his own family, even if they are Illegal?
Anybody would be a far better choice than Obama, and that includes any of these candidates.
Newt is experienced and intelligent. He's also mean-spirited and vicious – perfect presidential material, except for one major, glaring flaw: A president named Newt?
Replace Unelectable Loser A with Unelectable Loser C......
fickle bunch these republicans... talk about flip floppers!
President Obama will win no matter who the Repubs run against him. That said, the resurgence of Gingrich and Romney shows that the wingnut tea partiers are losing within their own party. Thank God, I'd never want Perry's finger on the nuclear button.
This is the problem with you liberals. NO common sense. Your president has single handedly destroyed this economy by all the bailouts. THe economy is cyclical and would've fixed itself, but this guy has other plans. He despises America and all of you couldn't see the wolf in sheep clothes. This country will have NO chance of recovering with him at the helm another 4 years.
I don't know why the GOP doesn't just support Romney. The one thing they seem most upset with him about is Romneycare. The thing about Romneycare is it's popular and it works. Less than 2% of people in Massachusetts don't have health care. How is that a bad thing? They act like he should be ashamed.
Romney is smelling like a rose. Cain and Gingrich JUST SMELL.
"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?"
Almost anyone but a Gingrich.
Hey CNN..... your LAIRS and hypocrites...rot in hell where you belong....Thanks for not allowing my right to freedom of speech. Say Hi to your KING for me.
I wish people would take a hard look at Jon Huntsman. Best economic plan of any candidate. Common sense ideas and good experience on foreign and domestic policy. Obama needs to hope it is Cain, Perry, Gingrich, or Romney that get the nod... because as bad as his Presidency has been, America won't put one of those guys in. Cain and Perry are not smart enough for the job plan an simple. Obama will destroy either of those in a debate. Romney is politician. This is all he is, that's all he wants to be, and you can tell. That why he has no movement up or down, is does just enough to get by like a good politician. Should be a Governor of a northeastern state where no real issues need to be tackled so he can just coast along, oh wait he did that already. Romney is like Gore or Kerry. Look the part, but won't get it done, just something missing. Newt is just an old security blanket for Republicans. He's smart enough, but too idealistic. Still has a place in government, just not as the #1 guy. If Huntsman could actually get a look, Obama would be in trouble. The guy is smart, well rounded, has good ideas, proven record as a fiscal conservative, moderate on social issues, and center/right on foreign policy. That is combination we need.
I love Newt! He is a student and teacher of history and government. He is the smartest and most qualified of all the candidates! He'd make a great president.
Hey–what's with that lineup picture with all of the candidates? Is Bachmann really taller than Santorum and the Newt-ist?
As much as I agree with Gingrich on most issues, and conceding that he would be 1000% better than Obama, the fact of the matter is, he WILL NOT be the Republican nominee. The Republican electorate WON'T elect a guy that was a "serial cheater" on his wives, esp. a guy that asked his cancer-striken wife for a divorce while she was on her DEATHBED!!. The Obama campaign would hammer these points, along with the obvious fact that he is a LONG TIME (Washington) INSIDER.......
Wow. Republicans are seriously desperate. Newt Gingrich? He's a disgusting person, a has-been, a total hypocrite and one of the least liked politicians of the past several decades. Obama would sail to reelection vs. Gingrich.
Newt is the worst hypocrite of them all. Cheated on his wife while impeaching Clinton. I would like to hear more about Huntsman. he sounds somewhat sane.
Don't rule out Reagan.....He's the only GOPer who hasn't led this race at some point this year.
I'm stil riding aboard the Cain Train!
Can't wait for this pig to campaign on family values and watch the Republicans eat it up. Oh wait...I'm not looking forward to that. I'm going to concuss myself with all the headdesking. Better stock up on ibuprofen.
"Newt Surges?" I think that's only when he drinks too much and stays in the car too long.
Time for Cain to propose a Cain/Perry ticket. That might help him regain the momentum.