Last month, Herman Cain was a little-known radio talk show host who struggled to pick up more than a few percentage points in polls of the 2012 Republican presidential primary race. But two new polls released this week show Cain vaulting from the back of the pack into the top-tier of candidates.
Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin snagged the top two slots in a national Gallup poll released Thursday morning, taking over the lead from Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump, who led in Gallup's April poll but who have since announced that they will not run in 2012. But it was Cain who gained the most ground, jumping from less than one percent last month to 8% now, good enough for fifth place.
That huge jump placed Cain just one point behind Newt Gingrich (9%), and only two back of Ron Paul (10%), both of whom are much more widely known around the country. That jump also threw Cain ahead of a slew of other candidates who suffer from chronically low name recognition and who have yet to crack the top-tier, like Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum.
In an unreleased PPP survey of Ohio Republicans obtained by TPM, Cain also rose from obscurity to join the ranks of the frontrunners. In that poll, Mitt Romney (21%) and Sarah Palin (16%) also claimed the top two spots. However, Cain wasn't too far behind, earning a third place tie with Gingrich at 12% apiece.
Cain, a talk radio host and former pizza chain CEO who has never held public office, significantly boosted his profile this month through his participation in a nationally televised Fox News debate. Participants in a Fox focus group after the event almost unanimously declared Cain the winner.
In an interview with TPM last week, Cain spokeswoman Ellen Carmichael said that Cain's "star has risen," and predicted that he would draw more support as his name recognition grew.
'"More and more people are coming to know who he is," Carmichael said. "And once they do, they'll like him."
Cain officially rolled out his campaign last weekend at an event in his home state of Georgia.