Before the cold that really took me down since Friday (to explain my silence since), we checked in on the pre-debate polling for Herman Cain's first debate as a major contender.
It turns out that Cain's momentum had taken him even further ahead of the Tuesday debate, though post-debate polling suggests he took at hit in the national audience.
I'm far enough behind that I have four national polls to catch up on. First we'll check on the three that were in the field before the debate. In no particular order we have Ipsos for Reuters polled 410 Republican adults, mobile and landlines, MoE 4.8. Next is Hart/McInturuff for NBC News and the Wall Street Journal polled 336 GOP Primary voters, mobile and landline, MoE 5.35. Last is Public Policy Polling's survey of 484 "usual Republican primary voters," automated. MoE 4.5.
The results vary, despite all three being out in the field for virtually the same period, and all ending the day before the debate. Ipsos, taking its first poll in 4 months, has the same leader: Mitt Romney. He's up at 21, but with Herman Cain close behind at 19, Ron Paul third at 12, Rick Perry way down near irrelevance at 9, and the rest below him and Other. That's a close race at the top, 58/42 in favor of Romney. Cain's lead over Perry is 85/15, not really in doubt.
NBC is better for Cain and for Perry. Cain leads at 27 to Romney's 23 and Perry's 16. That's a 64/46 edge for Cain, and a 74/26 lead for Romney per my math. By itself the poll suggests a clear 1, 2, 3 order in the race, clearly different from the Ipsos poll, though.
PPP has yet another result. Cain also leads, but all the way up at 30, to Romney's 22, Newt Gingrich's 15, and Perry's 14. I show that being an 81/19 edge for Cain over Romney, not really in doubt at all.
So if I do some crude math to average the three polls, and to be fair I should double-weight the registered voter polls over the poll of adults, Herman Cain actually went into the race as a decently solid frontrunner, with a 66% chance of being ahead of Mitt Romney. Rick Perry's results have turned quite volatile, with some results sticking him with the pack, and others keeping him alive in the top tier.
So that's where we were before the debate. Now we turn to the first post-debate poll. Rasmussen Reports polled 1,000 likely GOP primary voters, landlines plus an online panel with partisan and census postweighting. Romney ties it back up in this poll, matching Cain at 29. Gingrich again shows in third at 10, Perry at 9, and nobody else shows above Other.
So one can at least conclude that Herman Cain was not harmed overly by his first debate in the national spotlight. He went in better liked than the others: NBC had him +46 thanks to 23% not knowing who he is and only 6 having a negative opinion. Contrast with Romney's +35, Perry's +20 (remember when he had the favorability leads?), and Gingrich's +26. PPP had Cain at +51 to Romney's +24, Perry's +4 (no typo), and Gingrich's +27.
Perry's favorables have crashed back to Earth. When (not if) Cain's follow, where will the race end up? That, the math won't tell me.