By Javier ManjarresThe Republican presidential primary race continues to prove that the race is both fluid and as unpredictable as the weather. The Des Moines Register’s recent poll of likely Republican primary voters showed Newt Gingrich leading the field with 25 percent of the vote. Texas congressman Ron Paul came in second with 18 percent, Mitt Romney dropped to third with 16 percent, and Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain tied with 8 percent of the vote.
With the Iowa caucus just a month away, most surprising is the fall of Romney to third, and the mini surge of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s campaign fourth place could be a sign that her campaign has not yet peaked whereas the other candidates may have already done so.
Like all of the previous frontrunners in the race including Bachmann (who won the Iowa straw poll), Newt Gingrich is not expected to retain such a large margin in the polls and will likely shed some support as voters in Iowa continue to reassess his candidacy.
Gingrich’s recent “life begins at implantation'”comment will likely cost him with social conservatives, and his past indiscretions that will undoubtedly be revisited amongst conservatives who are still sitting on the fence with him.
This issue could be amplified due to the Herman Cain’s sexual harassment/infidelity allegations that caused him to ‘suspend’ his campaign-suspend is a nice way of saying ‘I quit’, without having to explicitly say that you did.Rumblings throughout conservative circles can be heard that say it would make no sense to shift support from one alleged adulterer to an admitted one, referring to Cain and Gingrich.
So where will the Herman Cain votes go? Since it’s likely that Newt will shed a few points in the next couple of weeks and that Cain supporters are mostly comprised of social conservatives, those votes will likely gravitate towards Bachmann, Perry, and possibly Rick Santorum, who are all strong with social conservatives.
Let’s do some simple math. If Newt sheds 2 points, factor in Cain’s 8 points, and assume that Romney will lose at least another point or two, we have between 11 and 12 percentage points up for grabs.
If most of these percentage points go to Michele Bachmann, the results of future polls in other primary states could very well show her in a strong third, or even second place position, which would put her in position to place well in South Carolina and Florida, two states with significant social conservative primary voters.
Even though Congressman Ron Paul is polling at 18 percent in the recent poll, Paul’s figure is likely soft, as his recent surge in popularity is aided by a substantial protest vote until one of the other candidates begins to emerge from the pack. Paul will probably finish in the top four in Iowa, but is likely to trail off in support soon thereafter. The vast majority of Republicans, most notably its conservative wing does not see Paul as a electable candidate largely because of his reckless and naive foreign policy positions.