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With Palin and Christie out, will Herman Cain gain more ground?

Is Herman Cain another Michele Bachmann: Will he see a burst of popularity, only to fade?

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"Nobody wants to put a candidate forward just because they happen to be the most electable," said veteran campaign consultant Terry Nelson. Voters want someone "who has the kind of vision and solutions they think might work," he said, and Romney's team is "trying to put forward that vision."

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Perry showed his impressive fundraising Wednesday, when his campaign reported raising more than $17 million in his first seven weeks as a candidate. For the quarter that just ended, Romney was expected to raise less than the $18 million he brought in during his first three-month fundraising period. Paul, the libertarian-leaning Texas congressman, said he raised about $8 million.

Obama, meanwhile, has stepped up his fundraising as well as his jabs at his Republican opponents. He recently described the Republican contenders as "a stage full of political leaders" who failed to admonish a Republican debate audience that booed a gay soldier stationed in Iraq.

Some had expected Palin to come in and draw heavy conservative support.

Sen. John McCain plucked Palin from relative obscurity in 2008 by naming her as his running mate. She electrified Republican activists for a while, delivering a well-received speech at the Republican national convention.

But Palin later seemed overwhelmed by the national spotlight, faltering at times in televised interviews even when asked straightforward questions.

Palin on Wednesday told conservative radio host Mark Levin that she would not consider a third party candidacy because it would assure President Barack Obama's re-election.

In a video posted on YouTube, Palin said, "you don't need an office or a title to make a difference."

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Associated Press writers Steve Peoples in New Hampshire; Tom Beaumont in Iowa; Charles Babington and Philip Elliott in Washington, and Gary Fineout in Florida contributed to this report.

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