With a full three months before the first Republican presidential contests, there’s still a lot that can change in the race. For now, however, Mitt Romney is riding strong in New Hampshire, a crucial primary state. According to a new poll released by Harvard University and the Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm University, Romney is leading the field with 38 percent support among likely voters in the New Hampshire presidential primary. Herman Cain takes the second place spot with 20 percent of the vote, and Ron Paul finishes third with 13 percent of the vote. The remaining candidates, including Rick Perry, poll at 5 percent or less.
This obviously isn’t great news for the Texas governor. But it’s not terrible news either. The simple fact is that Herman Cain isn’t a serious candidate. His policy knowledge is slim and his political organization is nonexistent. Yes, he’s traveled to a few primary states, but that has more to do with book sales than it does with actually running for president. Sooner or later, his bubble will pop, and he’ll fall back down to earth.
But while Cain’s candidacy is a sideshow, his constituency is not. Cain represents the largest faction in the anti-Romney wing of the Republican base, which is as large -- if not larger -- than Romney’s own base of support. In New Hampshire and elsewhere, these voters have attached to Cain for lack of a better choice.
To put this another way, Herman Cain has sucked the oxygen out of Perry’s bid for anti-Romney conservatives. As such, Perry’s task for tomorrow’s debate and the weeks ahead, is to reassure Republicans of his conservative credentials and re-establish himself as the real alternative to Romney. Part of that, as I noted earlier, will involve attacks on Romney’s record. But part of it, I think, will require Perry to gently show conservatives that while Herman Cain is a great guy, he’s not quite presidential material.
Photo credit: Jamelle Bouie