Discuss as:

Iowa Poll: Cain, Romney top field ahead of caucuses

Brian Ray / AP

Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain campaigns outside of Kinnick stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Oct. 22.

DES MOINES, Iowa—The two candidates who least frequently visit Iowa are currently leading in the race to win the state's January caucuses, the new Des Moines Register poll showed Saturday evening.

Former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain leads the Republican presidential field in the Hawkeye State, narrowly surpassing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the top spot, according to the poll conducted this past week.

The highly regarded Iowa Poll shows Cain with 23 percent and Romney at 22 percent among likely caucus-goers ahead of Jan. 3's caucuses, the first nominating contest of the 2012 cycle. Cain has seen his stock rise by 13 percentage points since the last edition of the poll; Romney only dropped one percent despite the fact that neither candidate has visited Iowa more than once since the weekend of August 12th.

The advantage for Cain and Romney seems unusual in a state that typically prides itself on retail politics.

"Iowans seem to be saying 'we've tried politicians, it's time to shift gears and try a CEO to run our country.'  The more desperate our country's financial situation, the more voters are looking for someone from the business world who can turn this ship around," said Steve Grubbs, Cain's Iowa state chairman.

As a matter of comparison, Romney led the field — at 29 percent - to former Arkansas governor and eventual caucus-winner Mike Huckabee's 12 percent in the October 2007 edition of the same poll.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul places third in the Register’s poll, with 12 percent, followed by Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann at 8 percent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry tied at 7 percent, former Sen. Rick Santorum at 5 percent, and finally former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman at 1 percent.

The Iowa Poll suggests a slight shift within the margin-of-error in the race for Iowa's caucuses since the NBC News/Marist poll was conducted at the beginning of the month. Romney led at 23 percent to Cain's 20 percent in that poll, conducted Oct. 3-5.

Iowa campaign embed Alex Moe talks about the new Des Moines Register poll that has the two candidates who rarely come to the Hawkeye State in the lead.

Bachmann, who is staking her campaign on Iowa, has dropped 14 percentage points since June and into fourth place. This news comes after winning the Ames Straw Poll and spending a lot of time in the state, including recently expanding her staff here.

"Poll numbers have bounced up and down on weekly, sometimes daily basis. We’ll see much more of that before caucus night but one thing I’m convinced of is that Michele Bachmann will come out on top in on Jan. 3," said Bachmann's Iowa campaign manager Eric Woolson.

It has been four months since the Register released its last poll. The June poll had Romney leading in the state with 23 percent—just in front of Bachmann, who jumped in the race two days after the poll came out, at 22 percent. Perry had yet to throw his hat in the ring.

Though Perry joined the race just over two months ago, both he and his wife, Anita, have made quite a few trips here, yet Perry is tied for fifth place with Gingrich.

Perhaps the most disappointing showing, at least in terms of time spent in Iowa, has to be for the former Pennsylvania senator, Santorum. He will be the only candidate to visit all of Iowa’s 99 counties as of Wednesday, but still remains at the bottom of the poll.

The Register’s poll was based on telephone interviews Oct. 23-26 with 400 likely Republican caucus-goers, and has a margin of error plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.