Republican presidential candidates continue to play musical chairs in the polls following their three September debates. In the latest Fox News Poll, Mitt Romney leads with 23 percent of the support thanks in large measure to Rick Perry’s 10 percentage point drop in the poll from a high of 29 percent in August. Herman Cain’s support has nearly tripled to 17 percent.
Many Republicans are still pining for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to enter the race, but he continues to balk. Clemson University Political Science professor David Woodard says it is clear that the strong conservative wing of the GOP is dissatisfied with the present group of candidates.
Woodard says in South Carolina, Republicans continue to favor Perry and it will mostly come down to a Romney-Perry contest by the time the 2012 primary draws near mainly because of their campaign war chests and other resources.
Herman Cain has been drawing a lot of media attention after winning the Florida GOP straw poll last weekend. Michele Bachmann garnered similar attention when she won the Iowa straw poll back in August. Woodard says while candidates have in the past gained some traction with a good showing in previous straw polls, he does not put too much stock in them. Woodard says Cain’s steady performance in the recent debates have helped him rise in the polls.
Woodard says, while scientific polls can give a snapshot view of the relative strength or weakness of candidates at a particular period of time, early polls can be deceiving. He cites the 2008 Palmetto Poll as an example.
As the campaign evolves, Woodard says he sees Romney remaining steady, with Perry battling in recovery mode from his poor debate performances as many conservative Republicans, including Tea Parry members, still continue to favor the Texas governor. Woodard adds that if he had to name a dark-horse candidate in the South Carolina primary, it would be former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick Santorum.
Woodard is a GOP consultant and a conservative activist.