Herman Cain: Election 2012 Preview

This article is part of an occasional series of articles looking at the contenders for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination.

Herman Cain, the former Chairman and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, has suddenly (and unexpectedly) surged to the top of the polls for the Republican presidential nomination.

It’s easy to see why so many voters have taken to Mr. Cain. He’s spent the past months delivering a message that is well-aligned to the nation’s discontent, and he possesses the real-life business experience many voters crave.

Since the beginning of the 24/7 media age in 1980, there have been eight presidential elections. The winners of all eight have had the same seven winning traits. Mr. Cain has many of them, but does he have enough?

Photo Credit Gage Skidmore

The video below, from earlier this month on ABC’s This Week with Christiane Amanpour, helps answer that question.

In this interview, Mr. Cain did a nice job of navigating back to his message, even when his interviewer’s questions weren’t particularly relevant. For example, when asked about the booing of a gay soldier during a Republican debate, he brought the conversation back to overall military policy. When asked about his remarks that African Americans were “brainwashed” against voting for conservatives, he brought his answer back to the economy.

Mr. Cain paints a specific vision for the economy, primarily through a new taxation plan he calls “9-9-9.” That phrase is on its way to becoming a household word, a credit to the simplicity of the idea and his effectiveness at selling it. He undoubtedly appears comfortable in his own skin, a trait voters have consistently rewarded.

Mr. Cain fares less well in other areas. He answers many questions with an almost defiant tone, and has displayed a snappish temper in several videos making their way around the Internet.

He has a bad habit of abandoning his main messages and saying some ridiculous things. Most recently, he declared, “If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself.” He also declared that he wouldn’t appoint an American Muslim to his cabinet, a comment he subsequently backed away from. Since history is the best indicator of future behavior, we can expect more whoppers from Mr. Cain.

Although Mr. Cain has delivered a vision for the economy, he has not yet delivered a clear vision for foreign policy. He even derided the importance of such matters by mockingly saying, “When they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan I’m going to say, you know, I don’t know. Do you know?” 

Mr. Cain has a good sense of humor and is adept at delivering funny one-liners. But he doesn’t exactly possess the sunny optimism Americans prefer in their leaders (e.g. Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama).

Mr. Cain may be more than the “flavor of the week,” as Sarah Palin famously called him. But based on his performance thus far, it’s hard to see how he uses his recent momentum to win the White House.

GRADE: C+

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