Romney leads in early states

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks to a group of supporters during a visit to a GOP phone bank, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011, in Terrace Park, Ohio.
AP Photo/Al Behrman
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney

In a poll of the only places that really matter, the early Republican primary states where voters actually choose the nominee, Mitt Romney is the clear front-runner. But former pizza boss Herman Cain is running a close second despite not spending a lot of time in any of the first four states where voters head to the polls early next year.

In a CNN/TIme/Orc poll released Wednesday, Romney garnered 40 percent support in New Hampshire, where voters head to the polls in early January, more than three times the support of Cain, who once ran Godfather's Pizza.

In Florida, where voting takes place in late January, Romney took 30 percent support from registered Republicans, 12 points higher than Cain's 18 percent.

In the first state to collect results, Iowa, where the front-runner has barely spent any time and voters are more socially conservative than the former Massachusetts governor, Romney took 24 percent to Cain's 21 percent.

Voters in conservative South Carolina votes are expected to head the polls in late January, and Romney is polling in the fourth early state at 25 percent compared to Cain's 23 percent.

Cain has surged in national polls, including the latest poll from CBS News , which are less relevant than state specific polls. special report: Election 2012

  • Corbett Daly On Twitter» Deputy Politics Editor Corbett B. Daly is based in Washington. He has worked at Reuters, Thomson Financial News and CBS MarketWatch.