I’m not sure if I fully believe the new CBS News poll, but if it’s accurate, it looks like a new top tier is coming together in the race for the Republican nomination.

In the Republican race for the presidential nomination, Newt Gingrich’s support continues to slowly grow, and he is now tied with Mitt Romney for second place, while Herman Cain just edges both of them out for the top spot. Both Cain and Romney have lost support since late October. […]

The field of Republican candidates now has three candidates within striking distance of each other at the top of the list: with 18 percent, Herman Cain is in the top spot, followed by Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich with 15% each. Support for both Cain and Romney has declined since late last month, and Gingrich is the only one of the top three whose support is steadily — if slowly — on the upswing.

So, let me get this straight. Seven weeks before the Iowa caucuses, the presumptive Republican nominee’s national support has dwindled to 15%? He’s tied with a disgraced former House Speaker who barely campaigns and whose only joy in life is upbraiding debate moderators?


The reason I’m skeptical about these results is that they’re a little out of whack with other recent data. Of the national polls released so far in November, all of them show Gingrich edging past Rick Perry for the #3 slot, but none shows Gingrich close to Romney’s level of support. CBS, meanwhile, has Gingrich and Romney tied.

For that matter, all of the recent national polls put Romney’s support somewhere in the low-to-mid 20s, while CBS has him at 15%.

And while those caveats matter, the CBS numbers at least reinforce the larger trends: Romney hasn’t been able to consolidate Republican support; Cain’s scandals have not yet had a significant impact on his support; and Gingrich’s time in the spotlight appears to be now.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.