Steve Benen is puzzled by the results of a new CBS poll. I'm not. Steve writes:
I'm not sure if I fully believe the new CBS News poll, but if it's accurate, it looks like a new top tier is coming together in the race for the Republican nomination.
... with 18 percent, Herman Cain is in the top spot, followed by Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich with 15% each. Support for both Cain and Romney has declined since late last month, and Gingrich is the only one of the top three whose support is steadily -- if slowly -- on the upswing.So, let me get this straight. Seven weeks before the Iowa caucuses, the presumptive Republican nominee's national support has dwindled to 15%? He's tied with a disgraced former House Speaker who barely campaigns and whose only joy in life is upbraiding debate moderators?
Sure. Why not? Romney has been doing OK for a while, but as the Fox-addled, talk-radio-programmed voters get closer to the wedding day, they're thinking: Am I really going to marry this guy?
And I wonder whether the Cain scandal is actually hurting Romney. Until now, a certain percentage of not-fully-crazy-but-still-very-conservative voters were apparently thinking that, yeah, Romney's not perfect, but he's mostly saying the right things -- he's on our side. And now, with the sense that the political establishment is trying to destroy Herman Cain, Romney, to some Republicans, looks like part of the problem. Or an embodiment of the problem.
And Gingrich is gaining because his particular style of bunkum seems ideally suited to the GOP's endless series of debates. Plus, he's from the GOP old guard -- which probably helps him peel off some not-fully-crazy voters from Romney -- but he's also a tea-esque bomb-thrower, which helps him pick up the voters Cain is losing.
So yeah -- why not Gingrich?
The Daily Caller notes that a new McClatchy-Marist poll (PDF) has Romney at 23%, Gingrich at 19%, and Cain at 17%.
Is it possible that the crazies (Erickson et al.) are going to do a 180, root for Cain to drop out, and throw their support behind Newt?