[Posted by Karl]
Although Rick Perry currently remains in the lead in the RCP average for the GOP nomination, Nate Silver* is far from the only person noting that the prime beneficiary of Perry’s current slump is Herman Cain, not Mitt Romney. It appears the political discussion will continue to move back to a Romney vs Not Romney theme, although Silver adds the appropriate caveats:
Mr. Romney has emerged — or re-emerged — as the favorite; I’d give him roughly even odds of winning the nomination. But it’s unlikely to be a smooth and linear path, and the alternate hypothesis that Republican voters are determined to pick someone more conservative than him has some support in this data.
That’s not to paper over the problems of Mr. Perry, who entered the race in a strong strategic position and has failed to make much of it. It’s possible, moreover, that the fallout of the Sept. 22 debate is not yet fully realized in the surveys; Mr. Perry performed somewhat worse in the Fox News and YouGov polls than in the CNN poll, which postdated it by a couple of days.
In general, however, I’d caution against using terms like “momentum” when discussing the nomination race (or polling results under most other circumstances). We’ll be publishing a separate article on this shortly, but there’s not much evidence of serial correlation in polling data: candidates who decline from one period to the next are just as likely to rebound as to see their numbers continue falling.
That finding does not surprise me. As I noted previously, if Romney re-emerges as front-runner, there will be a renewed focus by his rivals and the media on Romney’s weaknesses as a candidate. Moreover, if Cain competes seriously with Perry in the Not Romney category, Cain also will get more scrutiny. (more…)