here are myriad reasons not to take Herman Cain seriously as a presidential candidate, says Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast. Among them: Chaos in his campaign, "an obvious strategy to run for president as a money-making proposition through book sales and vastly increased speaker fees," "staggering policy ignorance," and "meta and campy web ads that appeal to twentysomething ironists," but not social conservatives. And yet, Cain is defying all precedent — and perhaps logic — by sitting solidly at the top of most recent Republican polls. How has he managed that? Here, five theories:
1. Cain is not a politician
The fact that GOP voters are lining up behind a TARP-supporting, abortion flip-flopping former lobbyist like Cain shows "just how suspicious voters are of the political class and how much they're willing to put up with someone who isn't a member of it," says John Dickerson at Slate. Cain's supporters gush about how "he's not from Washington." This "outsider" status helps explain his popularity with the Washington-hating Tea Party. But it also "gives Cain a big gaffe cushion." When he flubs an issue, it doesn't hurt him; it proves "he's not a polished pro like [Mitt] Romney" or Rick Perry.
2. He's brilliantly exploiting the media
Cain is succeeding because he "understands how the media works," says David Weigel at Slate. And no wonder: For the past decade he's been "a pundit and radio host who could walk onto Fox News" and shine. He's also honed his schtick by speaking at "every Tea Party [event] that would have him" since 2009. And Cain knows that to break through to GOP voters he has to "make bold pronouncements and endorse wild gimmicks" — the more provocative the better — and then grab a big microphone to speak into. Well, he's doing just that.
3. And he puts on a terrific show
"Cain is a great performer" in a field of weak candidates, says Sullivan at The Daily Beast. Once you understand that Republican voters are looking for a highly partisan motivational speaker, not someone with policy expertise or a record of successful governing, you see why Jon Huntsman is being shunned. Cain, on the other hand, is not only untainted by actual policy-making, but he's also "likable and brilliant at simple, effective presentation. He has the skills of an actor, and a roguish shamelessness that reminds me a little of [Bill] Clinton. Even though you know he's a total charlatan, you still kinda like the guy."
4. He's actually the best conservative in the race
"The idea of an outsider actually winning the presidency is beyond the imagination of political hacks and the punditry," says Don Surber in the Charleston, W.V., Daily Mail. Cain's meteoric rise just "blows the minds of Democrats." But it's actually pretty easy to explain: "He's a conservative, and this is the conservatives' turn for the nominee." Cain fights for conservative values, he has been with the Tea Party since Day 1, he's had business success, and all his right-wing rivals have imploded. Of course he's on top.
5. Let's face it — Republicans just really like him
Cain isn't just leading the pack in generic polls. He's also trouncing his rivals when voters are asked who they would most like to have dinner with, says Allahpundit at Hot Air. He is by far the most well-liked candidate, with 76 percent viewing him favorable and only 16 percent unfavorably. Republicans like him even more as they learn more about him. It will be very hard for rivals like Perry to "dislodge support from a candidate who's +58 in net favorables." The truth is, "if the campaign was a contest of pure charm, the rest of the field would have already packed up and gone home."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why ABC threw its Bachelor under the bus
- Why are so many elderly Asians killing themselves?
- Why Ted Cruz is the real-life Frank Underwood
- Why I'm sick and tired of seeing naked women on HBO
- Here's proof that Justin Bieber is just as spoiled as you always thought
- Here's how Iran is covering Russia's invasion of Crimea
- 22 TV shows to watch in 2014
- 4 easy ways to resolve life's toughest questions
- What the collapse of the Ming Dynasty can tell us about American decline
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
Subscribe to the Week