Matt Towery

The latest InsiderAdvantage survey of potential and announced Republican candidates for president suggests that two figures mainly ignored up to now, Rep. Michele Bachmann and businessman Herman Cain, are, for at least the moment, capturing a reasonably strong share of the vote among those who say they plan to vote in their states' primaries or caucuses.

The Newsmax/InsiderAdvantage survey, which was also exclusively released for television through ABC's Atlanta affiliate WSB-TV, showed Mitt Romney still atop the potential field with 16 percent of the vote. But Bachmann demonstrated surprising strength, coming in second place at 12 percent. With the exit from the race of populist and/or conservative names such as Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump, it is clear that the most dissatisfied and active part of the GOP electorate is moving toward candidates who are most viewed as "tea party" conservatives.

It also didn't help Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich that they skipped the Fox News debate held early in May in South Carolina. Cain sparkled in the debate.

Why Romney and Gingrich chose to play coy, both with regards to announcing their candidacies and by "dissing" Fox, I have no earthly idea. Hello, there: We are talking about the most influential network for likely Republican and conservative-leaning voters in the nation. You can bet the brilliant man who basically created Fox, Roger Ailes, in his earlier years as a master strategist and adman, would never have let a candidate he was helping to squander such an opportunity.

Sarah Palin tied with Herman Cain at 11 percent in the poll. Tim Pawlenty and Gingrich rounded out the field with 7 percent each. There is nothing I can write about Palin that has not already been written. However, the ascendance of Bachmann as the surging female candidate in the race does not do much good for Palin.

So are Gingrich and Pawlenty already dead from the start? No. In the case of Pawlenty, he needs more debates and more name identification. He also needs to stop sounding so mealy-mouthed in his presentation. As for Gingrich, the former House speaker needs to stay off the Sunday talk shows, quit dragging his wife's name into every speech he gives and concentrate on the first four critical states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. Gingrich can outdebate all of the candidates blindfolded, but his random comments to the press need to end.

Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a pollster, attorney, businessman and former elected official. He served as campaign strategist for Congressional, Senate, and gubernatorial campaigns. His latest book is Newsvesting: Use News and Opinion to Grow Your Personal Wealth. Follow him on Twitter @MattTowery