Herman Cain grabs lead in S.C. poll

The State (Columbia, S.C.)October 12, 2011 

It’s Herman Cain’s turn.

The former Godfather’s Pizza chief executive has rocketed to the top of the S.C. polls in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, following in the footsteps of Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry.

The latest poll, from New Hampshire-based American Research Group, shows Cain as the S.C. front-runner, leading former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by 1 percentage point.

It’s a remarkable turnaround for Cain.

Three weeks ago, a Winthrop University poll showed Cain with 8 percent of the vote in South Carolina, 3 percentage points behind the formidable “not sure.”

The latest poll says more about Romney than it does Cain’s prospects to be the candidate, experts said. Romney has been the only constant in every poll — national and local — in the 2012 race. Those polls always have found the race to be between Romney and one other GOP hopeful.

Over the summer, as the Republican field was sorting itself out, Romney and Michele Bachmann, the Republican congresswoman from Minnesota, led the field. Later, as the field stabilized, it was Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry atop the GOP race, especially in South Carolina, where Perry had double-digit leads.

Now, as the Republican candidates start attacking each other in the thick of debate season, it’s Romney and Cain leading the contest.

“One commonality seems to be Mitt Romney has a base, has supporters,” said Scott Huffmon, a Winthrop University political science professor and director of the Winthrop Poll. “The other candidates have the benefit of being not Mitt Romney. Whether or not they can hang on to those supporters has been up in the air. We’ve seen those supporters kind of move like the waves down the shoreline.”

Cain’s supporters say he isn’t a passing fad, contending he already has had his initial 15 minutes of fame and perseveres. Cain, who never has held elected office, enjoyed a bump after a GOP debate in Greenville in May — a debate where many S.C. voters saw Cain for the first time. Now, William Head, Cain’s S.C. director, said support is building again.

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