Republican White House hopefuls Herman Cain and Mitt Romney are in a tight race in Iowa, which kicks off next year’s presidential nominating contests, according to a closely watched opinion poll published at the weekend.
The poll conducted for The Des Moines Register showed Cain, a conservative businessman, with the support of 23 percent of Republicans surveyed. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, had 22 percent, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul 12 percent in the race to challenge Democratic President Barack Obama in the November 2012 election.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has stumbled in debates and on the campaign trail after a fast start, scored only 7 percent support.
The Iowa caucuses will take place on Jan. 3, the first of the state-by-state contests to choose a party presidential nominee.
The poll showed Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann fading after running neck and neck with Romney in the June Iowa poll. Bachmann dropped to 8 percent and fourth place in the new poll.
Neither Cain nor Romney has spent much time campaigning in Iowa. Romney, who has just four paid staff and a consultant in the state, has rarely visited Iowa since a second-place finish in the caucuses in 2008 wounded his campaign.
Iowa has a large bloc of conservative voters distrustful of Romney’s past support of abortion rights and a Massachusetts health care overhaul that was a precursor of Obama’s federal law.