I don’t consult polls to tell me what my principles are or what our policies should be. Leaders change the polls…

That was Rep. Paul Ryan when NBC’s David Gregory claimed that polls show that most Americans don’t want to cut Medicare spending. It is a quote that shows Ryan as a leader, not a follower. He probably knows that, whatever the results of the of the polls Gregory cited show, he is going to have to make a case and move the polls rather than being moved by them.

Other politicians should adopt this attitude, especially at a time of national financial crisis. I hesitate to mention gadfly presidential candidate Herman Cain and Paul Ryan in the same blog item. But I think one of the reasons Cain, former CEO of Godfather Pizza, does well in some contexts is that he doesn’t seem poll- or focus-group driven. In his own quixotic way, Cain intends to lead. John Podhoretz made a similar observation on Commentary:

I think the message is: Keep it simple, stupid. What Cain says is pretty basic. There’s too much regulation, taxes are too high, we need to take power back from the federal government, we need to get rid of Obamacare. Everybody else says variations of this, but the other candidates want to talk about the specifics of what they’ve done, the proposals they have, and the way they intend to fight. Maybe they’re overbriefing and overthinking themselves. Maybe what people want to hear right now are very simple and eloquent statements of the first principles that underlie the conservative argument against Obama rather than being dragged into the weeds on policy.

I watched Cain with Fox’s Mike Wallace yesterday. I loved the bluntness when Wallace asked him what he would give the Palestinians in negotiations: “Nothing.” I like this as a statement of leadership more than as a comment on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Indeed, Cain showed in the interview that that he hasn’t the foggiest idea what the “right of return,” a key issue between the Palestinians and Israelis, is. All I am saying is that Cain doesn’t seem like a follower-and, even with a guy who otherwise probably doesn’t have the right qualifications to be president, that alone is attracting favorable attention.