And right now -- less then 70 days before the Iowa caucuses -- it's a two-man race. At least that's what the latest Des Moines Register poll suggests is true in Iowa.
Herman Cain and Mitt Romney are the twin towers of the new Iowa Poll of likely Republican caucusgoers, with the Georgia businessman at 23 percent and the former Massachusetts governor at 22 percent.
Cain has surged since the last Iowa Poll in June, when he was at 10 points. Romney, on the other hand, has held steady — a rather remarkable feat, since he’s campaigned in Iowa only three days this year. Cain for that matter has been back in the Hawkeye State just once since the mid-August Iowa Straw Poll.One week later, the New Hampshire primary takes place; and in that state, Mr. Cain and Mr. Romney are again well ahead of field, though it is more precise to say that Mr. Romney is far out in front in that state.
Mr. Cain's steady rise in the preference polls and Mr. Romney's consistently strong showing over the past few months poses challenges for the other contenders. Yes, Texas governor Rick Perry continues to rake in impressive amounts of money, but his popularity is heading in the wrong direction.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann is on the same slippery slope, and the Christian Science Monitor reports some influential Tea Party activists are calling for her to end her presidential campaign.
She’s fallen to 3.8 percent in national polls of prospective GOP voters, according to the RealClearPolitics rolling average. That puts her dangerously close to the Santorum Line – the 2 percent threshold, from which a campaign teeters over the abyss.
She’s no longer doing well in Iowa, either, which for her might be even worse news than her national numbers. Her flavor-of-the-month period began after her win in the Ames straw poll. She was born in Iowa, comes from a nearby state, and has made Iowa the strategic focus of her campaign. But at the moment she’s in sixth place in Iowa, too, with only about 7 percent of the potential Iowa caucus vote.
But is she hurting the tea party as a whole? There’s no evidence of that at all.The rest of the Republican field right now is simply hurting, and there is little evidence to suggest that any of them -- Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum or Jon Huntsman -- can craft a message that will turn around their fortunes.