“Herman Cain and Mitt Romney top The Des Moines Register’s new Iowa Poll, with the retired pizza executive edging the former Massachusetts governor 23 percent to 22 percent in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

“Cain has surged 13 percentage points since the first Iowa Poll of the caucus cycle, conducted in late June. His rise has come despite spending little time in Iowa recently, campaigning here just once since the Aug. 13 Iowa straw poll, where he placed fifth…

“Texas Gov. Rick Perry was not yet a candidate when the June poll was conducted. But he soared to the top of national polls when he entered the race in August. However, after a string of much-criticized debate performances, his star dimmed nationally. He’s at 7 percent in the new Iowa Poll, tied with former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich for fifth place.”

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“Cain, however, said he plans to ‘dial back’ his campaign and media appearances in order to avoid missteps. Since climbing in the polls, he has had a series of fumbles, forcing him to clarify comments on abortion, immigration and terrorism suspects.

“Cain has chalked up the mistakes to a grueling campaign schedule jammed with media interviews. Such itineraries are standard fare on the presidential campaign trail and it is unclear how aggressively he will restrict his schedule…

“‘When you’re too tired you’re not on your ‘A game,” the 65-year-old Georgia businessman told a throng of reporters who greeted the arrival of his bus on the Samford campus.

“He said it was a mistake to schedule interviews immediately following debates. Cain maintained he did not flip-flop on issues, but simply did not hear questions properly.”

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“Rick Perry excels at retail politics and in one-on-ones with local and national media. His past campaigns have also excelled at social media. They have also excelled at attacking past opponents very effectively, but the current opponents, Mitt Romney and Herman Cain, aren’t likely to succumb to normal political opposition attacks. Romney’s known knowns are baked in. Everyone knows he’s a flip-flopper, but most Republicans are willing to vote for him against Obama if they have to. Herman Cain is too likeable and he’s made of Teflon right now. Nothing is sticking to him. Attacks on Cain will blow back on whoever launches them.

“So I don’t think Perry can effectively attack either one without damaging himself

“The solution? Perry needs to go retail and talk radio/online media in a big way. Perry should forget the attacks on Romney, just deliver his message and explain his record in a disciplined and relentless way. Do multiple daily appearances in Iowa explaining his plans and message to everyday voters, get those appearances captured and posted on YouTube and moved on blogs and social media. Get them in the local newscasts. Run positive issue ads in Iowa and South Carolina. Attack Obama often, get under his skin and make him respond directly to you.”

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“Which brings us to the second problem: Perry. Although the Texas governor has seen his poll numbers plummet in Iowa—from a high of 29 percent in early September to a low of 6 percent in October—as he has elsewhere, Perry’s heartfelt and hard-core Evangelical convictions and his tea-party bona fides, combined with his campaign’s capacity to mount a full-bore organizing blitz on the ground and drop a metric ton of negative TV ads from the air, make him a significant threat to rebound in the state. And indeed, at the Faith & Freedom dinner, Perry clearly signaled his intent to play hard for the affections of the religious right…

“Then there is the third problem, which revolves around the metanarrative of the campaign. If Romney decides to go all-in in Iowa, the national story line will shift in a direction that the candidate and his team have successfully kept it from doing all year—making the caucuses, instead of New Hampshire, the first test of his strength, and making central the question of whether Romney can slay the demons of 2008. ‘Iowa will become all about Mitt the minute he gets in it,’ says a Republican operative unaligned with any campaign. ‘This will tell us whether Mitt Romney has really matured. If he’s grown up into a guy who could be president, he won’t do it. I think Iowa is Lucy and the football for him.’

“A number of Romney’s senior advisers are broadly sympathetic to this view. But others are increasingly tempted to take the plunge. Below the radar, Romney’s people in Iowa have labored long and mightily to maintain the network of activists and volunteers who were behind the governor in the last go-round. And with each passing day that the field remains fragmented and Perry remains unable to revivify himself, the lure of Iowa only grows for those in Romney’s Boston brain trust.”

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“I find myself siding with the conventional wisdom. Unelected Businessguy With a Plan generally ends up imploding from lack of experience campaigning and failing to recognize that the Plan will invariably attract many critics. Moreover, the presidency is not a Senate seat; voters — including GOP primary voters — set the bar higher. For all the criticism leveled at people in early caucus and primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire, their arrogance signals they take the process seriously. When push comes to shove, most do not see the presidency as an entry-level position. This is why it’s not surprising that Romney is currently tied-to-leading Cain even in more conservative arenas like Iowa and South Carolina, and is well ahead in more moderate venues like New Hampshire and Florida. It’s also why a focus group in Ohio (admittedly unscientific) likes Cain but cannot see him as president (Romney supporters note: Perry not well-liked by the group). It is one thing to tell a pollster your preference months away from an actual vote; it’s another when casting a vote you might think matters.”

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Via Mediaite.

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Via Mediaite.

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“At Friday night New Hampshire appearance, Texas topper has some must-see moments — like most of you have never seen him before.”