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Romney, Gingrich rise in new polls

As the ups and downs of the Republican presidential race continue, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are benefiting from the decline of Herman Cain and Rick Perry, according to two polls released today – one by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal and the other by CNN/ORC International.

The NBC/Wall Street Journal pollsters contacted voters on Nov. 2-5, then contacted 102 of the same voters again on Nov. 10-12.

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The allegations of sexual harassment against Cain, the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO, from the time he was president of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, were revealed by Politico Oct. 30. The first accuser to publicly identify herself came forward Nov. 7.

Cain’s polling numbers before the allegations had been as high as around 25 percent, tying him with Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, for the lead. Since then, his poll numbers have dropped slightly, but these polls may be the first to foreshadow a more precipitous decline.

The first time the NBC/Wall Street Journal voters were polled, they favored Cain over Romney, 28 percent to 27 percent. The second time, Romney’s support rose to 32 percent, while Cain’s dropped to 27 percent.

In the earlier poll, just 10 percent of respondents said they would have “a great deal” of concern about voting for Cain in light of the allegations. In the later poll, 20 percent said they would have a great deal of concern.

The CNN/ORC poll showed Cain with an even bigger drop – from 25 percent in a poll conducted Oct. 14-16, to 14 percent in the poll conducted Nov. 11-13. More than half the voters (52 percent) thought the charges were a “serious issue.” Half said they tended to believe Cain’s accusers, while only one-third believed Cain, who has denied the charges.

Both polls show Gingrich, the former House speaker, as a major beneficiary of Cain’s drop. Analysts have suggested that voters may take a second look at Gingrich, whose campaign faltered this summer, if Cain and Perry continue to lose support. The NBC /Wall Street Journal poll saw Gingrich’s support rise from 17 to 22 percent. The CNN/ORC poll saw a substantial uptick in support for Gingrich, from 8 percent to 22 percent, vaulting him into second place, just 2 points behind Romney – within the margin of error for that question.

In the general election, the CNN/ORC poll found Romney is still perceived as the strongest candidate. He would defeat President Obama in head-to-head polling, 51 percent to 47 percent, while Obama would beat all the other Republican candidates.

Perry, the Texas governor, suffered from a major gaffe at a recent debate, when he forgot the third of three federal agencies that he wants to abolish. Both polls found slight drops in his support.

Full poll results for the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll can be seen here:

Full poll results for the CNN/ORC poll can be seen here:

Shira Schoenberg can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @shiraschoenberg.
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