Cain, a businessman from Georgia, is the favorite of 26 percent of those surveyed. Second is also from the state next door, former Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich, with 19 percent. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is in third with 16 percent, but that puts him effectively tied with Gingrich since the difference between them is within the poll’s 4.5 percent margin of error.
It was conducted Thursday evening by InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion Research which questioned 457 people who plan to vote in South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary.
The contest is essentially between Cain, Gingrich and Romney since none of the other candidates were in double digits. Texas Gov. Rick Perry garnered 6 percent, Rep. Michele Bachmann 5, Rep. Ron Paul 3 and former Sen. Rick Santorum 1. Four percent of respondents said they support a candidate not listed as a choice, and 20 percent haven’t made up their minds yet.
The poll comes one night after the latest televised debate in Detroit. And it comes ahead of Saturday’s debate at Wofford College in Spartanburg.
Wednesday’s debate was the first in which frontrunner Herman Cain faced questions about allegations by women that he behaved inappropriately toward them in the 1990s although none of his opponents attacked him. Cain denied the charges and said voters would not be distracted by the scandal.
“If anything, it stabilized Cain a little bit,” said Matt Towery, CEO of InsiderAdvantage. Women in the Palmetto State haven’t abandoned him as much as polls show they have in Iowa.
Also at that debate, Perry made what he himself described as an embarrassing gaffe when he froze on camera and couldn’t remember one of the three government departments he vows to abolish if elected president. The long pause and prompting by the moderator was obvious to the audience, and Perry said afterward that he had “stepped in it.”
Towery said Romney continues to have less support from people who consider themselves Republicans, but he has recently lost ground among independents to Gingrich.
“If the Cain situation gets more significant, Gingrich has the potential to benefit,” said Towery, who once served as Gingrich’s campaign chairman before setting up an independent polling/media organization.