Cain leads GOP primary poll in Tennessee

Authored By James Harrison

After allegations of sexual harassment threatened his candidacy, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain appears to have weathered the storm in Tennessee-at least among male voters. 

A new poll from Vanderbilt University shows the candidate has found favor with Tennesseans, after nearly 22 percent of 823 likely primary voters indicated they planned to vote for Cain in Tennessee’s Republican primary, scheduled for March 6. The survey was conducted by the Center for Democratic Institutions between the dates of Oct. 28 and Nov. 5-right as the accusations against Cain were reaching a climax in media coverage. 

Cain came out nearly 10 percentage points ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who finished in second place with 12 percent of the vote. Following Romney was Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who earned nine percent of the vote. 

Rep. Michelle Bachmann, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Rep. Ron Paul all garnered six percent, and former Sen. Rick Santorum came in last with one percent. Former Utah Gov. Jon Hunstman Jr. was not included on the list of choices. 

The poll suggests that Cain is more appealing to Tennessee’s male voters, who preferred him over Romney 27 to 12 percent. The difference was significantly less among the state’s female voters, who indicated they preferred Cain over Romney only 15 percent to 13 percent-a gap well within the poll’s 2.6 margin of error. 

Both Cain and Romney did well in hypothetical presidential election votes against President Barack Obama, each holding a four percent lead over the incumbent. 

But while Cain may have come out the most popular among already declared candidates, the true winner of the poll was no one. The largest number of respondents-a combined 37 percent-indicated they had not yet decided who they would vote for, or that they would rather have a choice other than the ones available in the current field.

Dr. Richard Wilson, professor of political science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, said that uncertainty of several kinds was to blame for the lack of overwhelming confidence in any one candidate.

“In general, I do not think we have a clear frontrunner yet, nationally, or here in Tennessee,” Wilson said. “For Romney, there is uncertainty in the minds of many people as to whether he has consistent stands on issues that are important to them. For Cain, it’s unclear if he can remain true long enough to earn the nomination and go on to win the election. So we’ve ended up with more than one-third of Republican primary voters having doubts. We may have to see what happens in the primaries before we get a real feel for how their campaigns will play out.”

The first major electoral event of the 2012 primary season, the Iowa Caucuses, are scheduled to take place on Jan. 3 of next year.