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Herman Cain, the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and Tea Party firebrand who has been written off by the media for months as an also-ran in the Republican presidential field, took advantage of a surprise win in a Florida presidential straw poll last month to surge to the head of the pack in some national polls. Now, a new survey from Public Policy Polling shows he could shake up the race even more with a win in the Iowa caucus:

Herman Cain has become the first choice of Republican voters in Iowa: he now leads the pack there with 30% to 22% for Mitt Romney, 10% for Ron Paul, 9% for Rick Perry, 8% each for Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich, 5% for Rick Santorum, and 1% each for Jon Huntsman and Gary Johnson.

The momentum in Iowa is pretty much completely on Cain’s side. Since our last poll there in mid-August he’s gained 23 points. The only other gainers are Gingrich and Romney, each of whom are up 3 points. Perry and Bachmann have both collapsed, losing 13 and 10 points respectively while Paul is down 6 points and Huntsman is down 2 points as well. Staying in place is Santorum who’s seen no change in his support.

Better news for Cain even than his lead is that his supporters are much more solidly committed than Romney’s. 50% of them say they will definitely vote for him compared to only 34% who say the same for his co-front runner. When you look at the race just among voters who say they are firmly committed Cain’s lead expands to 19 points at 38% to 19% for Romney, 13% for Paul, and 12% for Perry.

To be sure, at this time in 2007, Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney were the favorites for the Iowa caucus, and both were blown out by Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee, respectively. So take the polling with a grain of salt. But the polling and buzz in the media can be self-sustaining, and fundraising should pick up as the candidate looks more viable.

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