Chaos: Mathematically, we see it when small changes to the inputs of a function produce large, wild changes to the outputs. I believe we're seeing that now in the GOP primary race, as a weakened Herman Cain and a strengthened Newt Gingrich, combined with a steady Mitt Romney and a resilient Rick Perry, turn it into a four cornered brawl.
Two new polls from late last week: First, ORC International for CNN polled 480 Republicans and Independent leaning Republican RVs, mobile and landlines, MoE 4.5. Ending the same day was The Tarrance Group and Lake Research Partners for Politico/George Washington polled 1,036 likely voters for an MoE of 3.1. Both polls hit mobiles and landlines.
A third poll has come out that ended over the weekend, later than those two in fact. PPP polled 576 primary voters, MoE 4.1. The poll was automated, which I believe means legally mobiles were excluded.
As a friend put it to me as he reacted to these results, it's three polls and three leaders. That's chaos. Polls are supposed to confirm each other, not completely contradict each other and pick different winners. But that's what they're doing. CNN gives Mitt Romney the lead at 24 to Newt Gingrich's 22, Herman Cain's 14, and Rick Perry's 12. Cain leads the Politico poll at 27, to Romney's 25, with Gingrich and Perry tied for third at 14. PPP gives Gingrich his first lead at 28 to Cain's 25, Romney's 18, and Perry's 6 (six).
That's just nuts. You can't have three polls having three leaders. If we do an Olympic-style Medal count (three points for gold, two for silver, one for bronze) Gingrich tallies 6 points, Romney 6, Cain 6, and Perry 1. That's a three way tie, and more than anything else, that tie is probably keeping Perry in the hunt.
So it may be bad news for Perry of all people that Gingrich's numbers look unsustainable. CNN has him at +40 net favorability, and PPP has him at +45. The vetting will happen, the opposition will act, and that number will not last. As with Cain and Perry before him, Gingrich will take a beating.
If Cain gets back what Gingrich loses, I think Perry may be gone for good. If Perry gets some of it... watch out.