I’ve been writing about Mitt Romney’s remarkable good fortune. But his chief rival, Rick Perry, dodged a major bullet yesterday. In a new Fox News poll of Republicans nationwide, Perry finished second (at 19 percent). Surely Perry wishes he’d placed ahead of Romney, the top pick at 23 percent. But he definitely would have been unhappy to finish third, behind a man who has already advanced the Perry-in-trouble narrative by winning last weekend’s Florida straw poll. I’m talking, of course, about Herman Cain. The Godfather’s pizza magnate finished with a remarkable 17% in Fox’s poll, putting him within the margin of error relative to the Texas governor. That number might look flukey, particularly when you compare it to Cain’s modest 7 percent showing in a CNN poll also out this week. But a crucial difference between the two polls is that Fox’s was conducted from September 25-27, entirely after Cain’s September 24 Florida straw poll win, which gave him a burst of free media and a new notch of credibility. CNN, by contrast, polled from September 23-25, largely missing the effects of Cain’s straw poll victory lap.
It’s still not clear whether or where Cain might be able to steal a significant primary state; he finished fifth in August’s Iowa straw poll–although Michele Bachmann’s collapse could leave a large cohort of Hawkeye conservatives searching for an alternative. One thing Cain can do, however, is make life miserable for Rick Perry, by serving as a vessel of conservative discontent for the Texan, as he did in Florida, pressuring him in national polls, and, now, bashing Perry’s conservative record in the national media.
Come to think of it, this may really be another post about Mitt Romney’s incredible luck.