Despite the fact that Herman Cain is still considered a long shot for the Republican presidential nomination, he has nonetheless catapulted himself from the back of the pack as GOP window dressing to land in the thick of the race.
The GOP deck has been shuffled in the past week after many political pundits chose Cain as the clear winner of the televised Republican debates last week. This preceded Cain’s shocking landslide victory in the Florida straw poll over the “pre-ordained” nominee Rick Perry of Texas, who campaigned hard in the Sunshine State, and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.
Cain is also getting strong traction touting his 9-9-9 tax plan — a proposal to replace the current tax code with a 9 percent flat income tax, a 9 percent corporate tax and a 9 percent national sales tax. When a moderator posed Cain a question about his tax plan at last week’s Republican debate, the audience broke into applause even before the moderator could complete the question.
The question becomes if Cain, arguably Obama’s most vocal and most relentless conservative critic, can siphon off enough of the black electorate from the president, and combine it with his mushrooming Republican fan base, to win the Republican nomination?
Cain’s nomination appears more and more plausible as his conservative counterparts — Perry and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann — continue to trip over their own words and fumble the political football on the national stage. In fact, following his Florida victory, Cain’s camp reported that the former Godfather Pizza CEO raised more money in one week than he had during all of the preceding months put together.
Today a Fox News polls shows Cain with 17 percent support, which is just two points behind Perry and six points behind Romney. If this is even remotely accurate, it would represent a tripling of support for Cain from the last Fox poll. Moreover, a recent Gallup poll states that Cain has the highest positive intensity score of all the GOP candidates among those who know who he is. (Positive intensity is a measure of strongly favorable opinion vs. strongly unfavorable opinion.)
The media, which treated Cain as a second- or third-tier candidate before last week, are now warming to him in ways not previously fathomed. And his rivals, who declined to take shots at him at the Republican debate because he was considered a nonfactor, have to account for Cain’s movements now. He and Bachmann, once the media darling of the Republican Party, have essentially switched places on the relevancy scale.
Nevertheless, Cain lacks the formidable financial war chest that his closest rivals, Perry and Romney, boast as they all head toward the all-important Iowa Caucus in January 2012.
You all remember Iowa, right? That was the city and scene four years ago when another “pre-ordained nominee,” Hillary Rodham Clinton, was upstaged and outfought by a dynamic but little-known senator from Illinois. Despite his prodigious political skills, Barack Obama was also considered more than just a long shot for the Democratic nomination. Very few people outside of Oprah Winfrey believed at that point that the country would elect a black man. We all know how that turned out.
Today, as more and more blacks, young people, left-leaning Dems and independent voters publicly air their disenchantment with Obama, Cain is perhaps the Republican’s best chance to lasso those straggler voters into the GOP tent. Sounds outlandish, perhaps. But people said the same thing four years ago.