Herman Cain has plenty of reasons to be happy with the state of his campaign. After seemingly peaking after the first South Carolina debate he had some disastrous interviews, saw staff defection, and had a questionable campaign strategy. It would seem that his campaign’s engine is firing on all cylinders once again.
In the last couple of debates he has given a solid performance, but some believed Cain to be the winner of last week’s Fox News/Google debate in Florida. Then after a bus tour in the Sunshine State he won their straw poll doing what he failed to do in Iowa. Could we be seeing a Herman Cain resurgence?
National polls this week seem to back that up. A Zogby poll released Monday had him leading the field with 28%, a full 10 points ahead of Texas Governor Rick Perry who has had a rough couple of weeks and has suddenly seen his frontrunner status disappear. A Fox News poll released today saw him move to third with 17%, trailing Perry by two points, and front runner former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney by five points. I find the Fox News poll the most credible, Zogby has been unreliable in the past. With the RCP national average, Cain has tied former Speaker Newt Gingrich for third with 8.2% but still trails Perry and Romney. There is no doubt, however, that Cain is seeing a surge.
I think we’ll see the true impact of his surge when the latest polling in early caucus/primary states comes out. National polls tell us really very little in a state by state primary race. We have had any polling done in Iowa since August, his RCP average in Iowa after August was 5.3% back in 5th place. With Perry in decline and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s campaign in an apparent death spiral that could change. He continually gets high favorability marks. Anecdotally most Iowan, “average Joe” voters I’ve spoken have spoken well of him. The major question is what kind of an organization does he have after seeing staff and volunteer defections this summer.
His polling in New Hampshire is rather dismal with an RCP polling average of 2.7% coming in last (of the viable candidates). Rassmussen had the latest poll in New Hampshire (9/21). Cain tied Gingrich for 7th with 4%. The latest Florida poll done by Public Policy Polling (a Democrat outfit) released yesterday had him in 5th place at 7%. The latest poll done in South Carolina was on 9/20 by Winthrop. Cain polled third at 8%, but Perry (32.7%) and Romney (20%) were far ahead.
So what is going on here? National polls are incredibly fickle, especially so this cycle it seems, so they are definitely not a reliable measure of the health and status of a campaign. This isn’t to take away from Herman Cain’s surge however. When he campaigns hard (and smart) he does well, he’s proven that. He has also had some solid debate performances. He’s getting a lot of media attention. All of these things are contributing to his bump. He is a solid communicator, and I think what is most improved since he had his interview equivalent of hell week is that he has tightened up his message. He’s been on message about the economy and jobs. That coupled with his communication ability and his experience creating jobs people are still waiting to give him a look.
Cain may be back from the dead, but he’s still in intensive care. He needs to capitalize on this with a sound campaign strategy that takes him back to the early states – especially Iowa and South Carolina if he wants to pull off the ultimate upset.