Mitt Romney: 25 (25)
Herman Cain: 16 (4)
Rick Perry: 16 (29)
Ron Paul: 11 (10)
Michele Bachmann: 7 (8)
Newt Gingrich: 7 (6)
Rick Santorum: 2 (3)
Jon Huntsman: 1 (1)
I know Herman Cain would want me to say 9-9-9, but the real numbers to pay attention to here are 0, -13, and +12. That's how much movement there was in Mitt Romney's numbers (none), how much ground Rick Perry lost (13 points), and how far Herman Cain surged (12 points). While Romney ended up in first, he did so by staying flat; Cain picked up virtually all the ground lost by Perry.
This type of movement reflects what we've seen throughout the campaign: Mitt Romney has a steady base of support, but never seems to be able to break out of the mid-twenties. Whenever a conservative falters, another conservative swoops in to pick up the lost ground—but Romney is never able to directly capitalize.
This isn't necessarily a horrible situation for Romney, but it suggests he can only win the nomination by winning a war of attrition. He's in a good position to do that, thanks to his massive war chest, but he will always be vulnerable to a conservative candidate, and if one comes along who doesn't stumble, or if one of the current conservative candidates manages to climb back into contention, Romney is still extraordinarily weak.
Another sign of this weakness comes from three separate polls released today by PPP. In each of the three polls, Cain leads the field—and along with a resurgent Newt Gingrich, Romney and Perry vie with each other for second place. Tom Jensen:
Is the new Republican frontrunner Herman Cain? Maybe for this week anyway. PPP polled Republican primary voters in three pretty different states over the weekend- North Carolina, Nebraska, and West Virginia- and found Cain leading the way in each of them as Newt Gingrich surged, Mitt Romney stayed steady, and Rick Perry saw a collapse in his support.
Here are the numbers:
North Carolina: Cain 27, Romney/Gingrich 17, Perry 15, Paul/Bachmann 6, Santorum/Huntsman 2
Nebraska: Cain 30, Gingrich 16, Romney 13, Bachmann/Perry 10, Paul 5, Santorum 4, Huntsman 2
West Virginia: Cain 24, Gingrich 18, Romney 16, Perry 15, Bachmann 8, Paul 6, Santorum 3, Huntsman 1
Of course, these polls were taken before Cain's response to the Rick Perry hunting grounds controversy; given the conservative backlash Cain faced, I wouldn't be surprised if his numbers were to drop. But then again, based on how things have gone so far with this primary, it's probably a mistake to let yourself get surprised about anything.