WASHINGTON -- A day after Herman Cain shuttered his Republican candidacy for president, other struggling GOP hopefuls looked to pick up the fallen candidate's tea party following and upset a primary dynamic that has pushed Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich to the front.
Reps. Ron Paul of Texas and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota said Sunday they expected Cain supporters to fall in line behind them because of their messages on limited government, despite their low standing in the polls. Meanwhile, last-place rival Rick Santorum predicted he now had a good chance of winning the Iowa caucus. But the stakes are possibly the highest for Romney, who could be hurt the worst if Cain supporters rally behind Gingrich.
"A lot of Herman Cain supporters have been calling our office and they've been coming over to our side," said Bachmann. "They saw Herman Cain as an outsider and I think they see that my voice would be the one that would be most reflective of his." Likewise, Paul said he was optimistic that Cain's departure would reinvigorate his campaign.
"We're paying a lot of attention to that, because obviously they're going to go somewhere in the next week or so," Paul said of Cain's supporters.
Santorum predicted that his campaign would pick up steam in coming days.
"We have a very strong, consistent conservative message that matches up better with Iowans than anybody else. And we think we're going to surprise a lot of people," he said.
Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker from Georgia, has so far been the biggest beneficiary of Cain's slide. A Des Moines Register poll conducted Nov. 27-30 and released late Saturday found him leading the GOP field with 25 percent support, ahead of Paul at 18 percent and Romney at 16.
A separate NBC News/Marist poll showed Gingrich beating Romney, 26 percent to 18 percent, in Iowa.