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CNN Poll: Bachmann Trails Gingrich?

To be fair, that headline may be a little misleading. The latest CNN poll did find Michele Bachmann at 4 percent, trailing both Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich, but that’s only when Sarah Palin is included in the race. When Palin’s excluded from the lineup, Bachmann ties Gingrich at 7 percent, and beats Cain by one point. Still, she’s dropped 5 percent since late August, a troubling trend for her campaign.

The poll, which was taken after the GOP debate last week, shows Perry and Romney are both holding their grounds. In the non-Palin lineup (a.k.a. the more likely scenario), Perry’s still at 32 percent, unchanged since late August, suggesting that the momentum he came into the race with may be waning. Romney is now at 21 percent, a 3-point increase since late August. And Ron Paul shot up to 13 percent, a 7-point bump since the last poll. He’s now knocked Bachmann out of the #3 slot.

Bachmann has made a comeback before, and she can still regain the ground she’s lost. It largely depends on her performance at tonight’s debate. She’s a skilled debater, so her challenge tonight will be to get as much speaking time as possible. The reason the last debate went poorly for her was because she wasn’t given many opportunities to talk.

As for Romney and Perry, one of them needs to have a breakout performance tonight. That their numbers have remained unchanged since August shows they haven’t been able to pull additional support away from the also-ran candidates, despite the fact they’ve been receiving the most attention.