Mark Murray, deputy political director at NBC News, is reporting that Herman Cain holds a narrow lead in South Carolina's Republican primary, and he's running neck and neck in Florida with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, according to two new NBC News-Marist polls.
These two states have played pivotal roles in past Republican presidential nominating contests: Since 1980, the winner of South Carolina's GOP primary has gone on to win the party's nomination, while Florida ultimately decided the party's pick in 2008. This cycle, South Carolina's contest will occur on Jan. 21 and Florida's will take place on Jan. 31.
"The road to the convention is going to go through these two states," said Lee Miringoff, the director of Marist College's Institute for Public Opinion.
In South Carolina (download poll PDF), Cain gets the support of 30 percent of likely GOP primary voters — determined by past participation, interest and chance of vote — and Romney gets 26 percent. They're followed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry at 9 percent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 6 percent and Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul at 5 percent each; 15 percent of likely primary voters are undecided.
Herman Cain is definitely giving Mitt Romney a run for his money, pun intended. The road to the GOP nomination is getting pretty exciting. Now that the candidates have started turning on one another, it will be interesting to see if Cain can maintain his lead over Romney in key GOP states.
Read more at MSNBC.
In other news: VIDEO: Cain vs. Obama Would Be Fascinating.