ANALYSIS | With the announcement of Chris Christie's endorsement of Mitt Romney, and Sarah Palin's declination to hit the campaign trail once again, the Republican field seems to be finally set. Even though the general election is still a year away, the news media is following the race intently and reporting even the smallest details on the potential republican candidates. Perhaps the surge in political interest is spurred by a our failing economy and other feature news stories that either have a political connection or are directly related to recent policy changes.
The entrance of charismatic underdog Herman Cain no doubt infused the recent debates with a feeling of freshness, and over-the-top exclamations from people like Robert Jeffress calling Mitt Romney's Mormon religion a cult make sure that all the candidates get daily news coverage. Despite the GOP candidate's refusal to condemn the remark, American voters are still wary of supporting a Mormon for president. According to the International Business Times, the results of a June Gallup poll showed that 22 percent of Americans are hesitant to support a presidential candidate who happens to be a Mormon. To put that in perspective, the same poll showed only 10 percent would not vote for a Hispanic nominee, and fewer than 10 percent said they would not vote for a candidate who is Jewish, Baptist, Catholic, female or black.
Herman Cain definitely came on strong as a potential contender for the nomination. According to 7.92 percent of Respondents on KYFO's GOP debate poll, Herman Cain was perceived as the clear winner of the first debate he entered. Cain became more viable after the media started focusing on his highly touted 9-9-9 tax plan. Even though Cain won't elaborate on the team of economists he claims penned the plan, middle class Americans see it as a possible quick fix to our failing system. Cain's popularity continued to grow at the October 11, roundtable debate in which the 9-9-9 plan became a talking point more than once and dominated the night's discussion. He holds his ground well under questioning and aside from his most popular piece of hypothetical tax reform, Herman Cain presents a relatively few targets for political attack.
Even though Mitt Romney's Mormon background is suspicious to nearly a quarter of the voting public and Herman Cain is unlikely to draw the support of key Republican supporters, they are now the two front-runners for the GOP nomination. According to Real Clear Politics' latest poll results which are an average of the other major poll numbers, Romney leads the field with 21.7 percent of the vote, Cain is well within reach at 16.3 percent, and Rick Perry rounds out the top 3 with 14.7 percent.
In a hypothetical matchup of a generic Republican against Obama in the 2012 general election, Rasmussen Reports shows the generic Republican with 47 percent of the vote over Obama's 41 percent. Surprisingly in the same hypothetical matchup if you replace the generic Republican with Herman Cain, Obama wins 42 percent to 39 percent. Against Rick Perry, Obama wins 49 percent to 35 percent. If Mitt Romney is a "Generic Republican Candidate", you have to wonder how many people in the 6 percent are also members of the 22 percent who are suspicious of Mormon candidates.
Possibly the most telling poll results are not from this election cycle at all, but results from polling conducted on Oct. 9, 2007. According to National Polls.com, Ron Paul held an overwhelming lead over all other candidates in a Join the Fight for Freedom Poll with 68 percent of respondents saying he won the debate, while eventual nominee John McCain came in dead last with 0.2 percent of the total vote. This race is still wide open, and the tortoise will have a definite advantage over any hare.