Former pizza magnate Herman Cain‘s ascent to the top of the polls in the race for the Republican nomination for president took many by surprise earlier this month, as he seemed to come out of nowhere to supplant a faltering Rick Perry. Since his star-making performance at the Bloomberg/WaPo debate, however, Cain has committed a series of seemingly fatal gaffes, while Mitt Romney delivered a solid debate performance last Tuesday. According to recent polls, though, Cain’s momentum hasn’t suffered a bit.
I was less surprised than most about Herman Cain’s rise in the polls, having witnessed the near-Elvissian fervor he generated at this year’s CPAC convention in February, and having endured many an enthusiastic Cain pitch from conservatives at social events. Cain was also a hit with the Frank Luntz focus group at an early debate. Most of the things that made Cain a dubious general election prospect (his hostility toward gays and Muslims, race-baiting of the President, horribly regressive tax plan, and deadly immigration proposals) are either neutral or positive with GOP base voters.
Since he became the pepperoni on the GOP pizza – topping the polls – Cain has committed a series of gaffes that make his much buzzed-about smoking ad look like a failure to use the right fork. Republican primary voters probably weren’t that offended by his electric border fence (although he may have lost a few when he said he was joking – but only about the killing part), but his bizarre position on abortion, which mutated like an RNA-based virus on Red Bull, ought to have cost him, big-time, with the base. If his stint as a pro-choicer didn’t do it, then his whiplash to a no exceptions – even in cases of rape and incest – should have been too extreme for many.
He also continued to display an almost proud ignorance about foreign policy, and even said he would be willing to negotiate with terrorists, before reversing himself yet again.
Even if you theorize that most, or all, of Cain’s appeal derives from his bumper sticker-simple 9-9-9 plan, after an auspicious coming-out at the Bloomberg/WaPo debate, the plan withered in the sun like a salted jellyfish in Yuma. To his credit, though, Cain has managed to completely shift the economic discussion in the GOP primary, as candidates are now tripping over each other to present their own flat tax plans.
Despite all of this, despite the crystal-clear fact that Herman Cain is no more equipped to be President of the United States than the Noid, he continues to lead in polls that were taken after all of this ridiculousness. As a political writer, I should be ecstatic about this, since every day Cain remains in the lead is another day of easy copy. As a liberal, I should be stoked at the prospect of a Cain nomination, which could be an unprecedented drag on down-ticket races across the country.
Honestly, though, I’m disappointed, and a little bit pissed off. What is wrong with Republican primary voters? I know lots of people who hopped aboard the Cain train early, and they’re all otherwise smart people, their shoes always matched, and were on the correct feet. Is Mitt Romney really that bad?
People, it’s almost November. Even if Herman Cain wasn’t shitting the bed so often, he has to sleep in the shower, he’s got no money, and no campaign organization. Your choices, such as they are, are Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. If you nominate Herman Cain, it will be the best presidential campaign ever for the media, and for Democrats, but in spite of all that, I think my head might still explode.
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