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Cain Surges to Lead in US Republican Presidential Race


Republican presidential candidate and businessman Herman Cain speaks as former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney listens during a Republican presidential debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, October 11, 2011.

Republican presidential candidate and businessman Herman Cain speaks as former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney listens during a Republican presidential debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, October 11, 2011.

Georgia businessman Herman Cain is the surprise leader in the race for the Republican Party's presidential nomination, according to the latest poll. But some political analysts question whether Cain has enough staying power to remain a serious contender as the first caucus and primary votes approach early next year.

The latest Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll has Herman Cain with 27 percent support, followed by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney at 23 percent. Texas Governor Rick Perry drops to third place with 16 percent.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul is in fourth place with 11 percent, and the remaining four Republican contenders trail in single digits.

Cain was only at five percent in the same poll last month.

Cain is the only African-American in the Republican field and has gained notice with a smooth speaking style and an ability to connect with voters.

Cain also captured attention with a tax reform plan that would lower personal and corporate taxes to nine percent each and would impose a nine percent national sales tax. Cain defended his "9-9-9 plan" at the most recent Republican debate.

"It starts with, unlike your proposals, throwing out the current tax code," he said. "Continuing to pivot off the current tax code is not going to boost this economy."

Cain was the chief executive of a pizza company for many years and he also built a conservative following through a radio talk show.

Cain acknowledged on ABC's Good Morning America program that he has little foreign policy experience, but said if elected he would work to solidify ties with U.S. allies like Israel and take a tougher line toward adversaries like Iran.

"President Reagan's philosophy was peace through strength. My foreign policy philosophy is peace through strength and clarity," he said.

Analysts say Cain is surging because he is a fresh face in the Republican field, who excites conservative voters committed to lowering taxes and reducing the size of the federal government.

"Why is Herman Cain doing well? There are an awful lot of people who are unhappy with what is going on. That is what we need to pick up out of this poll," noted pollster Peter Hart on MSNBC television.

Quinnipiac University pollster Peter Brown says Cain's challenge will be to continue building support even as attention on him intensifies.

"Cain is a favorite of many of the Tea Party types in the Republican coalition," he said. "He is obviously a strong speaker and has a business background. But with that rise in poll standing it is likely he will get media scrutiny and then we will see whether that helps him or hurts him."

Despite Cain's recent rise in the polls, Mitt Romney has had several strong debate performances and many Republican strategists still see him as the long-term frontrunner in the race for the Republican nomination.

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    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

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