Cain, Romney Lead Pack in SC, Florida

Rick Perry in single digits in both places
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 19, 2011 1:33 PM CDT
Herman Cain, Mitt Romney Lead in South Carolina, Florida Polls
Republican presidential candidates former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, points at businessman Herman Cain during a Republican presidential debate Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011, in Las Vegas.   (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

(Newser) – The GOP primary is a two-horse race at the moment in pivotal South Carolina and Florida—just not between the two horses you thought it would be last month. Herman Cain has taken the lead in both states, topping Romney 30% to 26% in South Carolina and by a slim 32% to 31% margin in Florida, according to new NBC-Marist polls. Rick Perry is a distant third in both states, with 9% in South Carolina and 8% in Florida. (Both were conducted before last night's debate.)

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Cain and Romney are playing to very different crowds, with Cain scoring well among Tea Partiers, very conservative voters, and evangelicals, and Romney performing well with moderate and liberal Republicans. “This is a very, very divided electorate,” one pollster said. Cain’s supporters are also more enthusiastic; in Florida 52% of Cain’s backers “strongly” support him, to 41% of Romney’s. Then there’s this: In South Carolina, 53% of likely voters say Mormons aren’t Christians, and among them, Cain leads Romney 33% to 19%. (Read more Herman Cain stories.)

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