AUSTIN -- With less than two months before the first contest in the 2012 presidential race, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is still struggling to recapture the momentum that briefly propelled him to the top spot for the Republican nomination, according to two new national polls this week.Surveys by NBC News/Wall Street Journal and USA Today/Gallup showed that Perry has lost much of his early support and is running no better than 11 percent among likely Republican voters as he tries to make a comeback in advance of the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses.The polls show Atlanta businessman Herman Cain is running virtually neck-and-neck against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at the top of the field despite sexual harassment allegations against Cain.But the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll also found that 35 percent said of the respondents viewed Cain negatively, double last month's number.Another trend-line in the two surveys suggests that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich may be the latest candidate on the move in the Republican nomination race.Perry, who has been Texas' governor for nearly 11 years, surged into the lead within days after entering the race Aug. 13 but began losing ground after poor debate performances.He has sought to recover by bringing in additional advisers and rolling out elements of his economic plan and will be under pressure to turn in a solid performance in tonight's Republican debate in Michigan. A strong showing in the Iowa caucuses is considered vital to his hopes of revitalizing his campaign.Perry has 11 percent in the USA Today/Gallup poll, a 20-point drop from a high point of 31 percent in September.The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Perry and Texas Rep. Ron Paul of Lake Jackson with 10 percent each. Perry had 38 percent in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in August and 16 percent in October.Romney and Cain are tied for first place with 21 percent apiece in the latest USA/Today Gallup poll. In the NBC/Wall Street Journal survey, Romney leads Cain by one point, 28 percent to 27 percent.Gingrich, whose campaign seemed in peril after early stumbles, has overtaken Perry and trails front-runners Romney and Cain in both polls. He has 13 percent in the NBC/Wall Street Journal survey and 12 percent in USA Today/Gallup.The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll was based on 1,000 interviews from Wednesday through Saturday, with a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.The USA Today/Gallup poll surveyed 1,054 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents from Wednesday through Sunday and had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.Dave Montgomery is the Star-Telegram's Austin Bureau chief. 512-476-4294
GOP debate tonight
Gov. Rick Perry and other major Republican presidential candidates face off in a televised debate tonight in Michigan, 7-9 p.m. on CNBC.