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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Lord help us.
This whole "this candidate is surging and that candidate is trending now" is just a show put on by liberal media to tear apart the GOP. I'm not some super paranoid conservative, but it's pretty obvious Mitt Romney will get the nomination. Despite being Mormon, he is the most "normal" candidate; plus he just looks like a president.
All–I have to say is this: there are a good number of candidates flying around and, while lots of negative things are being said about everyone, no one but Cain currently has sexual harassment charges against him or her. Coincidence? I think not.
I knew gingrich would get his 15 minutes, he's unelectable, and a delusional, angry, tube of festering puss. Obama's got this election all wrapped up. Let the de-bushing recovery continue!!!
Ron Paul is the only one who will bring meaningful change. He sucks at delivering his message, but if you piece together what he says, he's spot on. Give the power to the states and let the people campaign at the state level for what they want from their government. He knows, as did our Founding Fathers, as do all smart people, that extraordinarily LARGE Centralized Governments simply do not work. If Ron Paul loses the primary, who wins in 2012 will simply not matter.
Turns out Sarah Palin was the smartest of the bunch. At least she had the good sense to remove herself from this clown show.
I like Newt Gingrich a lot, and I'd love to see a debate between him and our disaster in the White House. However, he carries a lot of bagage and the Democrats succeeded in trashing him pretty well with the general public including the independent voters needed to beat Obama. Considering the terrible damage Obama has done to our nation in less than 3 years, and the damage he could inflict with 4 more that Republicans have to be focused on insuring that he is not reelected. Right now it still looks solidly like Gov Romney is the Republican most likely to beat Obama! Under Obama our nation has had enough decline and despair. We have to make a change or our country might never be able to recover!
I don't think Cain's problem is whether people believe the charges or not but how he has handled it. He knew that, at one time in his career, charges were made. He should have been out ahead of this story, he lost the narrative. He is botching this and Republicans can't afford this kind of campaign. Also, after John Edwards citizens are leery to fully believe ANY politician, there will always be that nagging doubt.
If Gingrich wins then the Republicans are worse off than I thought.
I do not understand why a "poll" would ever be "breaking news" ? but then again, I am not party to the GOP !
Gingrich is trying to be nice to his fellow contenders on stage, while he stabs them in private news rooms. His blaming the media has made him a favorite among the conservatives. He is a political master in playing the blame game. You cannot trust this guy.
so, CNN & the rest have decided they're just not going to poll Paul vs. Obama.
Just what we need right? More lying politicians who care more about their salary and benefits than the well being of us American Citizens. God should bring the rain now.
Jerry Sandusky should throw his hat in the ring for the 'Pub nomination.
Looks like a shoo-in now for Obama.
Gingrich soars to what – the driver of the clown car. These candidates are a disgrace to everything we Americans hold near and dear. That last debate was telling. Let's privatize vet benefits, SS, Medicare as if we need to give Wall Street more of our hard earned cash than they have already looted, more tax breaks for people who don't need it while the rest of us can just drop dead, cut out food stamps which will result in starved Americans including kids, live like those in Communist China. Ick, to all of them, just ick.
What a bunch of silliness. Reading through the results of nearly all the other questions (in the pdf), you come to a completely different understanding than what's portrayed in this article. READ IT folks, don't just take CNN at their word. See on page 6 how the results are all over the place over the last 6 months or so?? That should be an indication not to put too much weight on that specific portion of the poll.
FletcherGR says he support Romney because he (FletcherGR) won't vote for any republican that supports torture (aka waterboading). But the problem is: what is Mr Romney's opinion about waterboading? Nobody knows!! he will surely be for it today and against it tomorrow flip, flop, flip, flop, flip flop, Mr. Mitt Flipflopmney!!
Republicans are the most gullible voters in the world!!
Hang on Newt. You're next on the hit list for the media. They obviously want Romney as the only alternate to Obama so the status quo can be preserved.
Oh Pleeze. Gingrich. lol. Nuff said. The Republicans cannot make up their minds. Every month they have another person leading in the polls indicating how fractured they are as a party. If a new person was to enter the race at this late appointed hour, that person will be the new front runner. It seems every last one of them with a few exceptions have been at the top of their polls at one time or another only to fall back to earth. Remember Backman? Remember Perry? Remember Cain? Remember Sarah? Remember Trump? Whose next? Rick Santorium? Well, my advise to Gingrich...enjoy your fifteen minutes while it last as it surely will be over before the month is over.
Maybe they ought to rename these Republican poll results. How about "Mitt and the Whack-A-Moles?" Whack Mitt, and nothing happens. Whack the others, and they go up and down. Seems like most Republicans are bouncing around like they were on a trampoline.
Is Jesse Ventura ready to jump in yet?
Let's face it... Mitt Romney is the most qualified to be POTUS, by far!
Another new top Republican candidate? No way. Enjoy your month at the top Newt. Cain and Perry will be waiting for you at the bottom to catch your fall.
We need a President with ideas not ideaology.
Ron Paul is the only one who will bring meaningful change. He's not too good at delivering his message, but if you piece together what he says, he's spot on. Give the power to the states and let the people campaign at the state level for what they want from their government. He knows, as did our Founding Fathers, as do all smart people, that extraordinarily LARGE Centralized Governments simply do not work. If Ron Paul loses the primary, who wins in 2012 will simply not matter.