Opinion Brief

Is Herman Cain a contender?

Polls show the former pizza magnate running even with Sarah Palin in Iowa. Does this GOP outsider really stand a chance of winning the nomination?

A new PPP poll of Iowa Republicans may give a small jolt to 2012 presidential contenders: Mitt Romney led the field, as expected, but the No. 2 slot was a tie between Sarah Palin and former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain. Notably, Cain trounced Tim Pawlenty, who came in sixth, and was the only candidate whose net favorability rating is growing. Other national polls have also put the Tea Party favorite among the top ranks of 2012 candidates. Does the little-known Cain have a real shot to win? (Watch Cain discuss the campaign trail.)

It's time to take Cain seriously: "There's never really been a candidate" like Cain, who polls so well despite a weak political résumé and low name recognition, says Nate Silver at The New York Times. If the GOP elite could choose the nominee, Cain would be toast. But since "rank-and-file" voters get to pick, "he might have quite a good chance." Cain certainly deserves to be treated like a viable contender."The not-so-simple case for taking Herman Cain seriously"

Cain's momentum won't last: The big question about Cain's surge is "How the [bleep] is this happening?" says Steve Kornacki at Salon. He's never held elected office, few people know who he is, and in any other year he would poll as poorly as past fringe candidates. But thanks to a weak GOP field and attention from blogs and Fox News, Cain is a "genuine sensation" with conservatives — for now. Rest assured though: Cain's bubble will pop when he's held up to the scrutiny serious candidates get."Welcome to Herman Cain's moment"

He's "able but unelectable": Cain's got a good personal story and a message conservatives love, and he tells both well, says Clarence Page in the Chicago Tribune. But he "shouldn't be surprised when some fellow Republicans write him off as entertainment," especially those "who care about winning elections." When you look at some of his embarrassing past statements (he was recently stumped on national television about what exactly the Palestinian "right of return" is), the damning campaign ads practically write themselves."Citizen Cain: He's able but unelectable"

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