The latest Fox News poll of registered voters has the GOP presidential race looking like this:
Mitt Romney 23%
Rick Perry 19%
Herman Cain 17%
Newt Gingrich 11%
Ron Paul 6%
Jon Huntsman 4%
Michele Bachmann 3%
Rick Santorum 3%
This represents a huge leap forward for Herman Cain, and bad news for Rick Perry, as Fox’s poll analysis explains:
Cain’s support among Republican primary voters is surging as he and the other standout from last week’s FOX News/Google debate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, benefited from a weak showing by former frontrunner Rick Perry.
Cain rose from 6 percent in the August FOX poll to 17 percent in the September sample. Gingrich, meanwhile, vaulted up to 11 percent from 3 percent, an even more dramatic rise.
Gingrich and Cain are the primary beneficiaries of the lackluster debate performance of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who saved his weakest outing for his third debate. Unfortunately for Perry, it was also the most watched contest so far and seems to have upended the Republican race.
Perry plummeted from 29 percent to 19 percent and from a 6-point lead to a 4-point deficit with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Fox mentions that early supporters are “unhappy” with the way Perry called critics of granting in-state tuition to illegal aliens “heartless.” Perhaps sensing this vulnerability after watching his poll numbers slide, Perry gave an interview to Newsmax in which he… well, he didn’t apologize, but he allowed that maybe he cares too damn much.
“I was probably a bit over-passionate by using that word and it was inappropriate,” Perry admitted. “In Texas in 2001 we had 181 members of the legislature – only four voted against this piece of legislation – because it wasn’t about immigration it was about education.”
No, Governor Perry, it’s about immigration. Absolutely none of your critics are objecting to the concept of educating children. Maybe you can arrest your polling slide when you figure that out.
Cain, meanwhile, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he “could not support Rick Perry as the nominee for a host of reasons,” among them Perry “being soft on securing the border.” That’s not a fair way to phrase criticism of Perry’s immigration stance – he’s actually pretty good on physical border security.
Insisting that he “could not support” Perry as the nominee is also a bit stern. Is Cain saying that a second Obama term is preferable to President Perry? Even strictly on the topic of illegal immigration, that makes no sense. Obama wants a national DREAM Act on a scale beyond anything Perry has done in Texas, and has been willing to impose it by fiat when he couldn’t win a vote in Congress.
Primary candidates often take hard swings at each other during pivotal moments in their campaigns. I wish they’d all concentrate more on running against Obama than each other, but some infighting is probably inescapable. The candidates should, nevertheless, be careful about going after a perceived weakness in a rival with such single-minded intemperance that they marginalize themselves – or permanently turn off primary voters they’re going to need when the field starts thinning out.
That’s what Michele Bachmann did with her vaccination attack on Perry, and now she’s skidding past Jon Huntsman on her way off the ice, as the GOP hockey game gets serious. Newt Gingrich is doing very well in this Fox poll, and he spends most of his time talking about how he differs from the current occupant of the Oval Office, and what he would do if he becomes the next one. It would be nice to see everyone adopt that strategy.