Commentary Magazine


Cain Surges to Lead in Multiple Polls

Herman Cain is surging into the top rank in enough polls that it can’t be dismissed as a statistical fluke. That last link, to a Public Policy Polling’s survey from yesterday, is probably the most surprising, showing Cain with an 8-point lead on Romney.

But as with any swift political rise, there’s always an excellent chance it could come crashing down to Earth tomorrow — especially when you consider the flightiness of GOP voters at the moment:

There are indications within the poll that Cain’s stay at the top could be short-lived. Only 30 percent of his supporters are solidly committed to him with 70 percent saying they might still go on to support someone else….Overall, 70 percent of Republicans are either undecided right now or open to voting for someone different than who they’re with now- that signals an extremely wide open race.

Up until now, the media hasn’t pressed Cain on his platform, background and controversial statements, largely because he wasn’t a top-tier candidate. This helped him take an easy ride to the top, but it will be much harder to hold onto that position once he really starts being scrutinized.

Another obstacle for Cain is whether he’ll be able to create the campaign infrastructure to keep this momentum going. He raised just $2 million last quarter (and a good chunk of that was self-financed). While he’s expected to see a spike in donations when he discloses his fundraising records this week, Reuters reports there are questions about whether he can attract the larger donors he needs for a successful national campaign:

“Certainly with his higher media profile as well as his higher profile in the debates, he should see a bump in smaller contributions and maybe mid-sized contributions,” said Eric Ostermeier, a research associate who runs a popular politics blog for at the University of Minnesota. But experts say viable candidates need a mix of big and small donors to sustain a national campaign. Big donors provide the money to keep a campaign running and small ones are essential because they provide repeated donations over the long haul.

If Cain’s fundraising numbers don’t match his meteoric rise in the polls, then it will only add more fuel to the narrative that he’s not a serious candidate.