Herman Cain has surged into an eight-point lead over his nearest Republican rival in first-in-the-nation Iowa, an exclusive Newsmax/InsiderAdvantage poll released on Monday shows.
The former pizza magnate is supported by 26 percent of voters who say they will vote for him in the Hawkeye State GOP caucus, compared to 18 percent who opt for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
The surprising numbers come just two months after the popular Ames Iowa Straw Poll where Cain ranked fifth among the top-tier candidates, taking 1,456 votes to winner Michele Bachmann’s 4,823 votes.
Cain alos is running second behind Romney in New Hampshire, according to a separate Newsmax poll in that state.
Combined, the two polls confirm that with the clock ticking on the primary season, Cain is now the clear favorite among conservatives who are determined to defeat Romney for the nomination.
“But anything can still happen,” cautioned InsiderAdvantage president Matt Towery. “Herman Cain has never run a campaign before and it is not too late for him to make a terrible mistake, but he is in a very powerful position.”
Towery credited the simplicity of Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan – reducing income and corporate tax rates to 9 percent and introducing a national sales tax at the same rate – with his rise in the polls.
“He realizes that you don’t put out a 150-page economic plan, instead you have something simple that you can put on the top of a pizza box. It’s like going to the supermarket; you pick the frozen pizza that looks best, not the one that necessarily tastes the best.”
The polls in Iowa and New Hampshire and two other InsiderAdvantage polls in the other early voting states of South Carolina and Florida were all taken on Sunday evening.
All four show that Cain is the only candidate currently challenging the more moderate Romney. That trend began with a nationwide Newsmax/InsiderAdvantage poll on Oct. 5 and has since been confirmed by other polling companies.
The primary season is scheduled to begin in either late December or early January, but final dates have not been set as states still jockey for position to be at the beginning of the nominating process.
Cain’s eight-point lead in Iowa mirrors a similar figure revealed in a survey by the Democratic group Public Policy Polling taken last week. The Newsmax poll puts former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in third with 12 percent, followed by Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann with 11, Texas Rep. Ron Paul with 10 and Texas Gov. Rick Perry with 6.
In New Hampshire, Romney – the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts – leads with 39 percent, with Cain at 24. Paul has 11, Bachmann and Gingrich both have 5, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has 4 and Perry lags on 2.
The poll in South Carolina, conducted for The Augusta Chronicle had Cain ahead with 32 percent, followed by Romney on 16, Perry on 12, Gingrich on 8, Paul on 7 and Bachmann on 6.
In the Sunshine State, the poll for the Florida Times-Union had Romney on 33 percent; Cain on 30; Gingrich on 12; Perry and Paul both on 3 and Bachmann on 2.
Huntsman scored less than 1 percent in all the polls except New Hampshire and other long-shot candidates such as former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roehmer were not included.
Towery said that the winner in Iowa often does not end up getting the Republican nomination but with the rise of the conservative grass roots tea party this year that trend may be bucked.
“If Cain can win in Iowa and in South Carolina he would come into Florida with a very strong chance of upsetting Romney,” he said. “You need money to win Florida because there are so many media markets in the state and Romney has a huge financial advantage.
“But as Cain rises in the polls he will raise more money, and I can tell you something else, right now people working for the other candidates are sending off their resumes to Herman Cain. I call them the buzzards, but they are very professional buzzards and he is really going to need them.”
The polls show just how far Perry has fallen in a matter of weeks from being Romney’s main contender to a distant also-ran. His poor debate performances and his stance in favor of giving in-state tuition breaks to the children of illegal immigrants have harmed him, said Towery.
And the pollster said Perry’s campaign was harmed further at the weekend when his wife Anita complained that the candidate had been “brutalized” because of his faith.
“Voters don’t want a whiner. They don’t like crybabies and at a time that Perry has been launching missiles at Mitt Romney, they don’t have much sympathy for this type of thing.”