(Updates with Politico report starting in the third paragraph. For more campaign news, see ELECT.)
Oct. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Businessman Herman Cain and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney are in a statistical tie for the most support among Republicans in Iowa, where the presidential nomination contests start Jan. 3, a poll shows.
The Iowa Poll, conducted by the Des Moines Register newspaper, shows Cain with the support of 23 percent of likely caucus participants and Romney backed by 22 percent.
Cain’s strong showing in the poll comes as Politico reported last night that during his tenure as head of the National Restaurant Association, he was the subject of complaints by at least two women alleging “sexually suggestive behavior” during his tenure at the trade group during the 1990s.
The women complained of behavior by Cain that made them angry and uncomfortable, the website reported, and they signed agreements with the group that gave them financial payouts to leave the association while prohibiting them from talking about their departures.
In an e-mailed response to Bloomberg News, Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon said the allegations were surfacing now because Cain, 65, is “shaking up” the political landscape.
“Dredging up thinly sourced allegations stemming from Mr. Cain’s tenure as the chief executive officer at the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, political trade press are now casting aspersions on his character and spreading rumors that never stood up to the facts,” he said. “Since Washington establishment critics haven’t had much luck in attacking Mr. Cain’s ideas to fix a bad economy and create jobs, they are trying to attack him in any way they can.”
For all his gains in the polls, Cain has scant organization in Iowa -- traditionally a prerequisite for a strong caucus showing. He made his first visit to the state in more than two months a week ago.
“I believe that I’m doing so well because I’m connecting with the people,” Cain said yesterday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program. “Americans want to feel proud again and they don’t feel that pride right now.”
Texas Governor Rick Perry has considerable work to do in Iowa, the poll shows, if he wants to regain his standing in the race. Perry has support from 7 percent of likely caucus-goers in the poll, trailing Representative Ron Paul of Texas at 12 percent. Besides Cain and Romney, Paul was the only other Republican candidate to exceed 10 percent.
“The people at the top are not the people who have been spending a lot of time in the state,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of Des Moines, Iowa-based Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll and also administers the Bloomberg National Poll. “You don’t see the importance of a ground game play out until closer to the time of the caucuses.”
Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota recorded 8 percent support in the poll, virtually tied with 7 percent for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia.
Bachmann said she wasn’t concerned about day-to-day snapshots of the race.
“I’m doing exactly what I need to do in Iowa,” she said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week with Christiane Amanpour” program yesterday. “I’m here all across the state, meeting with people multiple times every day.”
Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who has spent more time in Iowa than any other candidate, stood at 5 percent. Former Utah Governor John Huntsman Jr., who is not actively competing in Iowa, found support among 1 percent.
The Iowa poll was conducted Oct. 23-26 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
Perry, 61, led national polls in the Republican race just five weeks ago. Since then, his standing in surveys has dropped by as much as 20 percentage points, following debate performances he acknowledged were mediocre and as Cain gained ground.
“We’ve got a great debater, a smooth politician in the White House right now,” Perry said on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “That’s not working out very good for America.”
Perry has agreed to participate in five more debates this year.
“Heck, I may actually be a good debater by the end of this,” Perry said on the Fox program yesterday.
If Perry is to regain momentum, his surge most likely will have to start in Iowa, where the lead-off caucuses begin the 2012 presidential nominating process. Perry is scheduled to spend at least two days in Iowa during the next week. He has also started running television ads in the state.
Below the Radar
Romney, 64, is taking a below-the-radar approach to Iowa and is seeking to manage expectations for himself in the state.
In his 2008 presidential bid, after an all-out effort to win the caucuses, he finished second behind former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Social conservatives who dominate the Republican caucuses balked at Romney’s past support of abortion rights and a Massachusetts health-care law he signed, and his caucus loss helped derail his candidacy.
This election season, those conservatives have yet to rally around a contender, creating the prospect that they could divide their support among all the other candidates and create an opening for Romney.
--With assistance from Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Carol Wolf in Washington. Editors: Mark Silva, Leslie Hoffecker
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