Why Herman Cain may be Able even without money

Herman Cain was right when he said Black Walnut is “not the flavor of the week.” In fact everytime Republican primary voters get a taste they come back for more. For the political junkie who is used to watching the Republican party consistantly nominate the establishment candidate there are some very interesting dynamics going on here.

Almost from the get-go Herman Cain was written off as non-contender for the Republican nomination. He was seen as a bit of a novelty and his unthreatening nature to the traditional nomination process earned him kudos from the field for his private-sector experience and his audacity to present an actual plan. The conventional wisdom is that Herman Cain has no money, therefore, has no real chance to compete through the primary season, and I disagree. Having served as a county-wide elections administrator and executive director of a county party I understand the importance of campaign infrastructure. But, in a year of disdain for bailed out banks, corporate and lobby influence on our political system and incumbant politicians it should be no surprise that voters are not looking for the guy who can buy the nomination. Pundits seem oblivious to this possibility, consistently referring to his lack of funds and campaign staff. Even as Cain surges the conventional wisdom continues to be Romney is the man to beat and Perry is his greatest challenge.  The money contest may come down to these two, but Romney’s numbers have been stagnent in the low 20s and Rick Perry has actually lost support in each successive poll.

In an earlier post I suggested that Cain reverse his harsh rhetoric of the Occupy Wall Street movement and adopt a more broad populist approach.  My thoughts were that both OWS and Herman Cain represent the “little guy” or the outsider trying to make an impact against the backdrop of the establishment. At the same time the Tea Party, of which a plurality supports Cain, is trying its darnedest to distance itself from OWS even on the most basic of princliples.  Even still, I find it difficult to believe that the Tea Party supports such statements as, “If you are not rich don’t blame Wall Street, blame yourself”.

At this point when only 3 candidates managing to garner double digit support the field is technically crowded, especially on stage during debates. Even while pundits watch Newt pick up steam from way behind with little money, they all seem to be anticipating the moment when polled voters share their sentiments on Herman Cain. I for one, judging by Cain’s bold naivety of his place in this race do not expect him to pull out until he has actually lost. Its hard to believe this will be an election about cash on hand when an “unpopular president” is expected to raise close to a billion dollars this cycle. If Cain is in fact serious he should be more concerned about how he matches up against Obama and what he must do to increase his mass appeal to general election voters. I have stated before his ability to be dismissive of criticism and stand with his ideas brings a certain charm but the longer this process wears the more groups of supporters will be in the cross hairs of his defense mechanism and his unwillingness to compromise, apologize or meter his tone will likely be the downfall of his candidacy.  There is a fine line between not appearing as a wobbly-kneed politician, which helps him, and seeming unpresidential. Republican primary voters may disagree but I can’t help but think the following ad crosses that line.

And, speaking of lines, isn’t “I am America” Stephen Colbert’s?

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Herman Cain: Cracking the Black Walnut

The takeaway:  Voters are expressing what they want in a candidate more than their actual support for Herman Cain or his 9-9-9 plan.

Talk to a political hack and he is likely to tell you Herman Cain is not a ‘serious’ candidate. Poll Republican primary voters and you get a different answer. Pundits and even the other candidates have overlooked and possibly “mis-underestimated” Herman Cain. His own campaign manager admitted he had a very small window to win the nomination. So how does any of this make since? I have a theory, and if it turns out correct it’ll be dubbed “The Cain Effect”.

Republican primary voters have gotten to know Mitt Romney since he first announced his candidacy back in February of 2007. He’s the guy the parents like because he has all the qualifications but the lady just isn’t in love. He is in a since the back up plan, and just can’t quite get voters to “put a ring on it”. This is where flirts with Christie and flings with Perry, Bachmann, and now Cain come in.

How Herman Cain is Different and Why He is Surging and What could Stop Him

He is not a politician. Herman Cain, unlike the aforementioned has never held public office. Rick Perry’s bonafides come from his tenure as Texas’ longest serving Governor and all other “major” candidates are also current or past office holders.

The “not a real candidate” factor. If Republican primary voters are going to dump Mitt Romney it will be for “the one”. A ‘1st tier’ candidate that will at least narrow the field to two.  After Rick Perry failed to meet that expectation voters chose the only real outsider. Its also impossible to over estimate the benefit Cain receives from being attacked by the mainstream media. This is key to his surging. Voters are expressing what they want in a candidate more than their actual support for Herman Cain or his 9-9-9 plan.  Halley Barbour used this anecdote:

One of my sons, I have grown children, you know, from the first day said ‘Dad, do you know Herman Cain?’ I said sure, I’ve known him since I was Chairman. He said ‘Man, I like him, I like what he says,’ and that is one of his great strengths Laura…He’s a straight talker and I think that makes him very, very attractive to people.

Yes, Ron Paul muttered, “Spoken like a true insider” referring to Cain’s time as Federal Reserve Chairman in Kansas City but for his best efforts Ron Paul still carries far too much political baggage himself. Whether its Godfather’s Pizza or the 9-9-9 plan Herman Cain is about building a brand. In his 2000 presidential bid Cain said,

George W. Bush was the chosen one. He had the campaign DNA that followers look for…I believe that I had a better message and I believe that I was the better messenger.

Precisely. People bought Barack Obama in 2008, not the Democratic Party and right now people are buying “Black Walnut” not and not necessarily Herman Cain.

Straight talk. People like a straight talking guy. Thats why they liked Reagan, George W. Bush, and why they were supposed to like Rick Perry but Herman Cain takes his straight to the edge. It can be amusing like when he told Ron Paul, “You’ve gotta be careful of the stuff you get off the Internet.” or questionable when in the same debate he said, “The problem with your analysis is that it is incorrect,” referring to Bloomberg’s assessment of his 9-9-9 tax plan. His ability to be dismissive of criticism and stand with his ideas brings a certain charm but the longer this process wears the more groups of supporters he will be in the cross hairs of his defense mechanism. Now that he is beginning to be taken seriously he should be prepared to answer tough questions about his past statements. There will be many since he has had his own radio program, syndicated column and written multiple books and with phrases like, “I don’t have the facts to back this up” he better be more careful in what he says, less someone take him serious.

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