Businessman Herman Cain may be the latest in a string of Republican presidential candidates to enjoy a bump in the national polls, but his appeal is real, even among GOP activists and party regulars in early primary and caucus states. That's the key finding of the latest Power Outsiders survey conducted by The Huffington Post and Patch.
Cain has impressed these local influential Republicans with his story of success and his advocacy of conservative issues. A surprising number believe he can beat President Barack Obama in 2012, although they are more hesitant about Cain's ability to win the Republican nomination.
The HuffPost-Patch Power Outsiders poll of political activists, party officials and officeholders in the early primary and caucus states attempts to listen in on the "invisible primary" under way among influential local activists and political insiders that has historically driven the outcome of party nomination campaigns. This week, we heard from 51 Power Outsiders in Iowa, 45 in New Hampshire and 63 in South Carolina.
As with the announced and prospective candidates tested previously, we began by asking respondents to pick just one word to describe Herman Cain. Nearly three out of four (74 percent) used a positive word to describe Cain, a slightly more favorable response than we have recorded for any of the others tested to date, including Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Chris Christie. The most frequently used positive words were "impressive," "leader," "successful," "likeable" and "charismatic."
Only one in 10 (11 percent) used obviously negative words, such as "unqualified" or "opportunist." Slightly more (14 percent) used words that were either descriptive or ambiguous in terms of being positive or negative, such as "businessman."
While the one-word answers reveal respect for Cain's skills as a spokesman and advocate and his success as a business leader, a set of more specific questions show the local Republicans also feel a strong affinity for Cain's issue positions. Specifically, 92 percent describe Cain as someone who "takes stands on issues you agree with," and 54 percent feel that phrase describes him very well. He scores better on this question than any of the others, including Romney (80 percent agree very or somewhat well with his stands on issues), Perry (75 percent) and Christie (87 percent).
Cain also scores about as well as the other leading candidates on the question of whether he "would make a good president." Three out of four (77 percent) apply that description to Cain, a lower score than received by Romney (86 percent) and Christie (80 percent) but the same as Perry (77 percent) and far ahead of Michele Bachmann (40 percent) and Sarah Palin (47 percent).
But do the local Republican activists think Cain can win? Perhaps surprisingly, a large majority (74 percent) describe Cain as someone "who can beat Barack Obama in the general election," roughly the same number who said that about Perry (76 percent) and Christie (76 percent). Yet significantly fewer (60 percent) describe Cain as someone "who can win the Republican nomination," and just 16 percent feel strongly that he can. So while these influential local Republicans report a very positive impression of Cain, many do so with notes of caution about his experience in government and his electability.
All polls represent a momentary snapshot of opinion. Presidential nomination campaigns, especially the "invisible primary" for the support of people like the Power Outsiders, are very much an ongoing process. In recent months, we have seen other candidates such as Bachmann and Perry rise and fall in the eyes of voters nationally and the Power Outsiders in the early primary and caucus states. Herman Cain's star turn may meet a similar fate. But for now he has made an unexpectedly strong first impression on these local activists for a candidate with no prior experience in government at any level.
The HuffPost-Patch Power Outsiders
Our surveys are not a scientific random sample of any larger population but rather an effort to listen to a swath of influential, local Republican activists, party leaders and elected officials in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. All of the individuals listed below have agreed to participate in the Power Outsiders surveys, although not all responded to this week's questions. This week's interviews were conducted between Oct. 7 and 11, 2011.
Robert Brownell (Polk County supervisor), Irene Chalmers-Neubauer (Republican precinct captain), Andy Christenson (local citizen activist), Mike St. Clair (Lobbyist), Arleigh Clemens (Co-Chair Johnson County Republicans), Creighton Cox (Local politician, council candidate), Jeremy Davis (Councilman), Tyler DeHaan (IT Services), Debra Derksen (PR person for Johnson County GOP), Paula Dierenfeld (Mayor, active Republican), Mike Elam (Organizer, Dallas County GOP), Paul Fell (Santorum supporter), Amanda Freel (State House Repub Staff), Steve Gaer (West Des Moines mayor), Natalie Ginty (Chairwoman, Iowa Federation of College Republicans), Rick Hermann (Sales Manager, WeatherTech Automotive), Libby Jacobs (former state representative), William Keettel (Former head, Johnson County Republicans), Kevin Koester (Congressman), Mary Kramer (former state senator), Marilyn Krocheski, Jon McAvoy (Head of Dallas County Republicans), Isaiah McGee (Owner, McGee strategies), Chris McLinden (Axis Human Capital, Businessman), Cynthia Michel (Precinct Captain), Mike Nolan (Republican Party noteable), Jim Sandager (West Des Moines city councilman), Rick Sanders (Republican Supervisor), Charles Schneider (West Des Moines city councilman), Chad Steenhoek (Member, Strong America Now), Wade Steenhoek (Ankeny City Council), Ronald Stenstrom (Romney Supporter), Karen Svede (Former statewide candidate), Rob Taylor (Running for Iowa House Seat), Deb Thornton (Worked in Republican administrations), Robert Wennerholm (Precinct Captain), Eric Woolson (Republican strategist), Randy Yontz (Director Leadership Institute)
Eric Anderson (Former State Rep/Chair Bow Board of Selectmen), Gary Azarian (State Rep.), David Bates (Rep- Windham), Kathy Benuck (BCTV Host/Blogger), D.J. Bettencourt (State Rep., Maj. Leader), Diane Bitter (Rye Republican activist), Travis Blais (Windham GOP Chair), Bill Boyd (Town Councilor), Bruce Breton (Selectman), Russell Bridle (Former Hampton Fire Department captain/State Rep.), Ed Brooks (Former ME selectman, town councilor), Chris Buck (Republican activist), Chris Buda (Merrimack GOP Chair), Jamie Burnett (Consultant), John Cebrowski (State Rep. - Bedford), Chris Christiansen (State Rep), Mark Cookson (Alderman-at-large), Tim Copeland (State rep.), Jim Costello (American Government teacher), Juanita Dangel (Secretary Hillsborough County GOP), Gary Daniels (State Rep), Ed Declercq (Planning Board), Jerry Delemus (Republican activist), Shari Demers (Activist), Julie DiCarlo (Small business owner), Ron DiCarlo (Small business owner), Bob Duffy (Nashua GOP City Committee), Bob Elliott (State Rep.), Gary Ellmer (Chairman, Porsmouth Republican Committee), Frank Ferraro (Exeter Selectman), Laura Foote (Activist), Mauri Foster (Retired), Sheila Francoeur (Seacoast Republican Women member), Michael Gallagher (Nashua Republican City Committee, running for Alderman), Bianca Garcia (Former Salem GOP Victory Office mgr), David Garcia (Salem Town GOP Chair), John Graham (State Rep. - Bedford), Brian Griset (Member of local political committee), Lisa Hansen (Romney supporter), Peter Hansen (State Rep), Pat Hargreaves (Selectman), Jeff Hatch (Salem Romney Town Chair), Ken Hawkins (State Rep - Bedford), Dan St. Hilaire (Executive councilor), Dick Hinch (Current State Rep), Jennifer Horn (Republican activist), David Hurst (New Hampshire Young Republicans chairman), Zac Johnson (Technical writer), Ken Jones (Member of Amherst Republicans), Gary Krupp (Member of the School Budget Committee), Michael Lambert (Resident), Steve Landry (Small business owner), Tom Linehan (GOP Activist), Eduardo Lopez-Reyes (Software engineer), Marie Lopez-Reyes (Sales), Di Lothrop (Nashua GOP City Committee), Stephen E. Ludwick (Chairman, Supervisors of the Checklist, Ward 9), Jim Luther (State Senator), John Lyons (Lawyer), Kris MacNeil (Former State Senate candidate), Joel Maiola (Former Judd Gregg Chief of Staff), Andrew Manuse (State Rep - Derry), George Markwell (School Board Member), Harry McClard (Freelance writer), Patrick McDougall (Budget Committee), Charles McMahon (Rep- Windham), Bill Modis (Vice Chair of Amherst Republicans), Maureen Mooney (Past State Rep), Keith Murphy (State Rep - Bedford), Tasha Olsen (Republican activist), Rick Paige (Loan officer), Michele Peckham (State Rep. (N. Hampton)), Amy Perkins (State Rep. (Seabrook)), Lawrence Perkins (State Rep. (Seabrook)), Kathryn Peterson (community activist), Lenette Peterson (State Rep), Pam Price (former state rep), Lee Quandt (State rep.), Matt Quandt (Exeter Selectman/State Rep.), Tom Rath (Consultant), Fred Rice (State Rep. (Hampton)), Jim Rubens (Former Republican State Sen.), Pete Silva (Rep - Nashua), William Smith (Conservative Blogger), Brandon Stauber (Small business owner/recent Exeter transplant), Kathy Stroud (State Rep), Chris Tremblay (Activist), Pam Tucker (Deputy House Speaker), Mark Vincent (Chair of Amherst Republicans), Jim Waddell (State Rep. (Hampton)), Tom Walker (Conservative Republican), Robert Washburn (Former City Councilor), Kevin Waterhouse (Rep- Windham), Raymond White (State Sen. - Bedford), Alan Williams (North Hampton resident, former Exeter selectman), J. Christopher Williams (Pres. Nashua CC), Tony Zore (Tea Party member)
Aubry Alexander (Charleston City Council - District 9), Thomas Alexander (State Senator), Dean Allen (Tea Party Activist), Charm Altman (President Sea Island Republican Women), Patrick L. Arnold (Campaign and fundraising consultant), Todd Atwater (S.C. Rep. Dist. 87), Rep. Nathan Ballentine (SC House Dist. 71), Bob Barnwell (Richland Co. GOP Spring Valley), Joseph Bates, Jr. (Committeeman/ Richland Co. GOP Dutch Fork), Eric Bedingfield (State Rep/Congressional Staffer), Lin Bennett (Chair, Charleston County GOP), Rich Bolen (Chair, Lexington County GOP), Andrew Boucher (Business consultant and political advisor), Phillip Bowers (Chairman, Pickens County Republican Party), Dan Bracken (President/ The Auction Co. & Real Estate Inc.), Edward Britt (Engineer), Joe Bustos (Former town councilman), Jay Byars (Dorchester County councilman), Bob Call (Berkeley County Councilman), Tim Callanan (Berkeley County GOP Chairman), Mike Campbell (Son of former Gov. Carroll Campbell; co-chairman of Huntsman's S.C. effort), Ed Carter (Small business owner), M. Todd Cullum (Lexington County Council member), Rep. Joe Daning (Statehouse rep.), Smokey Davis (Lexington County Council member), Carroll S. Duncan (Dorchester GOP Chair), Dana Eiser (Lowcountry 9.12 president), Linda Eiser (9/12 conservative), Linda Estep (wife of Pastor at First Baptist Church of Columbia), Scott Farmer (Richland County GOP Committeeman), Chip Felkel (Political Consultant), Will Folks (Editor, fitsnews.com; spokesman for former Gov. Mark Sanford), Leland Glen (Author), Chris Godbey (Political Consultant), Susan Grady (Republican activist), Randy Halfacre (Mayor of Lexington), Dan Hamilton (State Representative), Carla Hardee (President, Dutch Fork Chapter of the S.C. Federation of Republican Women), Larry Hargett (Dorchester County Council chairman), Val Hutchinson (Richland County Council), Johnny Jeffcoat (Town of Lexington Economic and Community Catalyst; Lexington County Council member), Jim Jerow (Georgetown GOP Chair), Debbie Jones (9.12 Board Member), Joanne Jones (Republican activist), Grayson Kelly (Fundraiser), James Kinard (Banker, Chair, Lexington County Council), Todd Kincannon (Lawyer/former executive director of SC Republican Party), Bob Kouvolo (President/ MaxPt), Mickey Lindler (Chairwoman for Republicans of Lexington and Richland Counties), Chris Mann (City Councilman), Karen Martin (Organizer/Spartanburg Tea Party), Larry Martin (State Senator), Taft Matney (Conservative Political Consultant), James Metts (Lexington County Sheriff), Matt Moore (Executive Director for SC GOP), Susan Morris (Nonprofit executive director), Mike Murphee (Charleston Tea Party chairman), Brent Nelsen (Professor of Political Science/former candidate for Supt. of Education), Don Nye (Bank employee), Allen Olson (Chairman / Columbia TEA Party), Randy Page (President,South Carolinians for Responsible Government), Gregory Pearce (Richland Co. Councilman), Kathy Perry (Charleston County Republican Women), Adam Piper (SC GOP 3rd Vice Chairman & political director for Huntsman campaign), Zach Pippin (GOP Media Consultant), Tony Pope (Insurance agent), Barbara Pulicicchio (Political activist), Rick Quinn (S.C. Rep. Dist. 69), Dennis Raines (Mayoral Candidate), Jeff Reuer (Vice Chair Goose Creek 9-12), DeLinda Ridings (SC GOP State Secretary / Huntsman campaign), Robby Robbins (Lawyer), Emily Rudolph (Sea Island Republican Women), LaDonna Ryggs (Spartanburg GOP Chair), Michael Sally (Hanahan City Councilman), Dennis Saylor (Chair, Aiken GOP), Bill Severns (Rep. for Beaufort Republican Men), Katrina Shealy (Candidate for SC Senate from Lexington), Lanneau Siegling (State Executive Committeeman), Billy Simons (Conservative activist), Garry Smith (State Rep), Bill Banning, Sr. (Vice-chair, Lexington County Council), John Steinberger (Fair Tax activist), Mary Ann Taylor (Charleston County Republican Women/Charleston County School Board), MacLain R. Mac Toole (S.C. Rep., Dist. 88), Frank Townsend (Lexington County Council member), September Wellborn (State GOP Delegate), Knox White (Mayor of Greenville), Jennifer Willis (County Councilwoman/ V.P. One Tree Hill), Henry Wilson (2011 delegate, S.C. Republican Convention), James David Woodard (Professor of Political Science, Clemson University), Cheryl Woods-Flowers (Former mayor, Republican official)
Earlier on the Huffington Post: