Businessman Herman Cain is now leading the Republican presidential field in Iowa, the site of the first contest on the road to the nomination. A survey of likely caucus-goers shows Cain leading with 28 percent, followed by Mitt Romney at 21 percent and Rep. Ron Paul at 10, a Rasmussen Reports poll shows.
However, when asked who had the best chance of defeating President Barack Obama, Romney edged out Cain by two percentage points.
The poll, conducted after the most recent GOP debate, puts Texas Gov. Rick Perry toward the back of the pack with 7 percent, trailing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, at 9 percent, and Rep. Michele Bachmann, at 8 percent. Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., polls at 4 percent and former Gov. Jon Huntsman at 2 percent.
“The sixth place finish for Perry is a sharp decline from early September when Perry was the frontrunner both nationally and in Iowa,” the report noted.
The numbers for Cain are even better among those who say they are absolutely certain they will participate in the caucuses. Among that group, Cain leads Romney 31 to 18 percent.
“Many have criticized the Cain campaign for not having a strong organization in Iowa which is seen as essential to turning out the vote. According to such conventional analysis, Cain might be at risk of raising expectations too high and then underperforming,” Rasmussen noted.
Regardless, Romney supporters, by an 85 percent margin, are convinced the former Massachusetts governor will win the nomination. Some 60 percent of Perry voters expect him to win the nomination compared to 57 percent of Paul supporters and 45 percent of Cain supporters.
Of all those surveyed, 43 percent expect Romney will lead the GOP ticket in 2012, 19 percent think Cain will win the nomination and 10 percent Perry.
On the question of who best could compete with President Barack Obama in the general election, 78 percent said it’s at least somewhat likely Romney could win, 76 percent thought Cain could, 66 percent Perry, and 49 percent Paul.
The survey of 800 likely caucus participants was conducted October 19, the day after the GOP debate in Las Vegas.
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