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Dec. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Republican presidential contenders sought the backing of Herman Cain’s supporters after the former pizza executive exited the race and polls showed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich holding the lead.
Representative Michele Bachmann said her campaign office already is capitalizing on Cain’s departure.
“Beginning yesterday our office had call after call after call of people who wanted to switch over and come and support me,” the Minnesota Republican said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“The dynamic is changing all the time,” Bachmann said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” She said the race is an “up-and- down political Wall Street” in which “candidates are going up and candidates are going down.”
When voters “find out that I’m the candidate who stands the most for their values, that’s when they come home,” Bachmann said on CNN. Bachmann and Texas Representative Ron Paul, who is polling second in Iowa, reminded voters of their roots in the anti-government Tea Party.
“There are a lot of people who call themselves Tea Party people that did like the independent mindedness of Herman Cain,” Paul said on the CNN program. “I’m optimistic we’ll pick up some votes.”
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum touted his “pro- growth, family values, strong national security” message on ABC’s “This Week” and said that most Iowa Republicans have yet to settle on a candidate.
Gingrich now holds a lead in the Midwestern state, where the first Republican presidential nominating votes will be cast a month from now. The Georgia Republican has the support of 25 percent of likely caucus participants, according to an Iowa Poll from the Des Moines Register newspaper.
Paul was next, with 18 percent, followed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at 16 percent. Sixty percent of poll participants said they may change their minds, while 11 percent said they’re undecided before the Jan. 3 caucuses.
“This is still anyone’s game,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of West Des Moines-based Selzer & Co., which conducted the Register’s poll. “What Romney has going for him is that neither Gingrich or Paul have dealt with much scrutiny.”
Bachmann recorded support from 8 percent in the poll, the same showing as Cain, the former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza Inc. who dropped out of the race Dec. 3 because of what he said was excessive media attention to allegations of improper sexual conduct on his part.
Texas Governor Rick Perry has work to do in Iowa to regain his standing in the race, the poll shows. He has support from 6 percent of likely caucus participants. Santorum, who has spent more time in Iowa than any other candidate, also stood at 6 percent. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., who isn’t actively competing in Iowa, was backed by 2 percent.
The survey of 401 likely Republican caucus participants was conducted Nov. 27-30 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
Gingrich has the potential to increase his support in Iowa, the newspaper said in its report. More respondents choose him as their second choice than any other candidate.
A Bloomberg News poll in Iowa done Nov. 10-12 by the same polling company showed Gingrich, Paul and Romney in a dead heat with Cain, all at around 20 percent. In the latest poll, Cain had fallen to 8 percent even before he announced he would be ending his campaign.
Gingrich May Benefit
Gingrich is the “likely beneficiary” of Cain’s departure, Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday.” Among Cain’s backers in the Bloomberg poll, Gingrich was the second choice of 28 percent, followed by Perry at 23 percent. Romney and Paul were each the second choice of 14 percent of Cain supporters.
An NBC News/Marist poll conducted Nov. 27-29 showed Gingrich leading Romney in Iowa. Gingrich had the support of 26 percent of likely Republican caucus participants compared with 18 percent for Romney, according to the NBC News/Marist poll of 425 people. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.
“A lot of people inside the Beltway and outside the Beltway woke up today to a very different political environment and one in which Newt Gingrich is very much for real,” said Robert Gibbs, the former White House press secretary now serving as an Obama campaign adviser, on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program yesterday.
A hard-fought primary isn’t “anything unique in American politics” and a prolonged process wouldn’t hurt Republicans’ chances of winning the White House, said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee.
“I mean Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama nearly gouged each other’s eyes out through the end of June before a national convention and, guess what: Barack Obama won pretty easily,” Priebus said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Gingrich, 68, opened his first campaign office in Iowa on Nov. 30, the last major candidate to do so.
Romney, 64, has also increased his efforts in Iowa in recent weeks, after taking a below-the-radar approach to the state for much of the year, as he sought to manage expectations.
One of Romney’s highest-profile surrogates, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, is set to visit Iowa on Dec. 7, about a week after the campaign started television advertising there.
Romney got the endorsement of the Sioux City Journal, a newspaper that circulates in northwest Iowa, a heavily Republican area.
--With assistance from Seth Stern in Washington. Editors: Ann Hughey, Steve Walsh.
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