The winner of the Republican straw poll in Florida was not Perry and not Romney, but Herman Cain. The African-American businessman took 37% of the vote, better than the two ostensible front-runners combined.
One could say that the vote is meaningless. It is cast by Republican activists, not the general public, who have to pay for the privilege. And yet the Florida straw poll, which has consistently forecast the eventual Republican nominee, does tell us this: Republican activists do not think much of any of the “leading” candidates.
Virtually everyone likes Cain, but assumes that it would be impossible for the former Baptist minister and Godfather Pizza CEO could win the election. After all, he has never held elective office before.
But now a public opinion poll, taken before the straw vote, has him ahead of the pack:
A new Zogby poll puts Herman Cain at the top of the Republican field, as the top choice of 28% of poll respondents. (IBOPE Zogby International says the polling sample consists of “all likely voters and of likely Republican primary voters.”)
Rounding out the top three are Rick Perry at 18%, and Mitt Romney at 17%. Fourth place goes to Ron Paul at 11%. Paul’s the most solid performer in Zogby’s polling history for the 2012 GOP race – his 11% might as well be chiseled in stone.
Interestingly, this poll was conducted after the Orlando GOP debate, but before Cain won the Florida straw poll. It’s a huge surge for Cain, who was polling at 12% just two weeks previously, and was floating at a campaign low of 8% two weeks before that. Aside from that bitter 8% number, Cain has generally done quite well in the Zogby poll, usually good enough for second or third place.
On the other hand, Rick Perry’s numbers in the Zogby poll have cratered, falling 19% in just two weeks. His debut last month was also his high-water mark thus far, when Zogby had him at 41%.
Michelle Bachmann has also been slipping steadily, chugging in at 4%. That puts her just below Jon Huntsman, which is the same way she finished the Florida straw poll. Bachmann was actually the leading candidate in Zogby’s polling from June 21 through July 25… then she plunged to 9% in the next poll and continued sliding down from there.
Romney’s been holding fairly steady in the Zogby poll. He bounces a few points up and down, but seems to hover in the 15-17% range.
Zogby’s also got President Obama’s approval rating at 42%, with 57% disapproval. That’s actually a bit better than his September 5 low of 39-61. His poor approval numbers seem to hold fairly steady, while his disapproval bounces around.
Could Herman Cain, the African-American businessman, become the Republican presidential nominee? And the next President?