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A new Public Policy Polling survey has Herman Cain leading the field for the Republican presidential nomination. The poll, which surveyed usual Republican primary voters from across the country, shows Cain leading presumed frontrunner Mitt Romney by a 30 percent to 22 percent margin. In another surprising result, the poll shows former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in third place at 15 percent — that’s 1 percent ahead of the plummeting Rick Perry.

Cain’s rapid rise in the polls was reflected by his prominent position in last night’s Republican debate; Cain was seated at the center of the table, and much of the conversation was focused on his “9-9-9” economic plan. It was the first debate in which Cain received the type of attention usually afforded to top-tier candidates. Still, a poll showing him as the national frontrunner comes as a surprise.

Now that the pizza mogul has the lead, the question is how long he will be able to hold onto it.

There are indications within the poll that Cain’s stay at the top could be short lived. Only 30% of his supporters are solidly committed to him with 70% saying they might still go on to support someone else.

This suggests that Republican voters are still less than thrilled with their choice of candidates. Herman Cain is enjoying big support from Tea Party voters — 39 percent of them support his candidacy — but these are the same voters who have already flirted with Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry before moving on. It remains to be seen whether or not Cain can succeed where they failed, and retain their support.

In the wake of last night’s debate, pundits from both sides of the aisle are rushing to declare Mitt Romney as the inevitable nominee. This poll suggests that such declarations may be premature. Even if Cain cannot maintain these high levels of support, they make one thing clear: A huge segment of the Republican electorate is still desperate to find someone — anyone — who can take Romney down from the right.

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