Feature

Cain: Suddenly, a serious candidate

Cain unexpectedly won the Florida straw poll, and a Fox News poll finds him just slightly behind Mitt Romney and Rick Perry.

“Is Herman Cain a serious contender?” asked Michael Barone in National Review. Until the past two weeks, no one really thought the affable former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza had any chance of winning the Republican presidential nomination: He has never held public office, and his only attempt to win an election—a U.S. Senate primary in Georgia in 2004—ended in a 26-point defeat. But against all the odds, Cain has surged to the top tier of GOP candidates on the strength of his charismatic and confident debate performances. He unexpectedly won the Florida straw poll last month, and a Fox News poll now finds Cain at 17 percent, just slightly behind Mitt Romney at 23 percent and Rick Perry at 19 percent. Cain’s popularity surge isn’t hard to fathom, said Chris Good in TheAtlantic.com. His libertarian ideas and business background appeal to the Tea Party, and he’s “undeniably likable.” He even pledged to bring “a sense of humor to the White House,’’ making his rivals seem wooden and dull. “Quirky as he is, Cain seems to be catching on.”

Not for long, said Steve Kornacki in Salon​.com. The only reason this “low-profile CEO of a second-tier pizza chain” is surging in the polls is that Perry, the would-be Republican savior, has flopped so badly since entering the race. Don’t get me wrong: I like Cain, too, said Meghan McCain in TheDailyBeast​.com. For a night of beer and pizza and laughs, he’d be my top choice. But he’s got no experience in government and no foreign-policy chops, and is just the latest Republican “flavor of the week.” Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry all set conservative pulses racing in a similar manner, before wilting in the spotlight. If we want to beat President Obama, we Republicans had better stop flirting with inexperienced also-rans and “start getting serious.”

I am serious, said Aaron Goldstein in The American Spectator. Like other conservatives, I don’t trust Romney, but I really like Cain. An embodiment of the American dream, he grew up poor but knowing that “the world doesn’t owe one a living.” His “9-9-9” tax plan would lower both personal and corporate taxes, and as a successful businessman, he understands budgets. And as a black man, he’d also make liberals look “really, really stupid” for insisting that the Tea Party—and all critics of President Obama—are motivated by racism. Wouldn’t that be fun?

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