Candidate Herman Cain's upset win of the Florida straw poll should not be dismissed with a few chuckles: the winner of this poll, unlike the winner of the Iowa straw poll, has always gone on to be the GOP nominee.
Cain got 37 percent to Gov. Rick Perry's 15 percent and Mitt Romney's 14 percent. Was it a fluke, a reflection of a yearning for somebody else to step into the race? Or is Herman Cain suddenly Most Likely to Succeed rather than merely Class Wit on debate nights?
One way to view the results of the straw poll is as Perry's loss more than Cain's gain. Larry Thornberry of the American Spectator says he "owes it all to Perry's collapse." Robert Stacy McCain, also of the American Spectator, has this take:
Perry's disastrous debate performance Thursday — in which he said opponents of college tuition subsidies for illegal immigrants "don't have a heart" — was the precipitating event of Cain's triumph. As the old saying goes, luck is the intersection of preparation and opportunity, and Cain was perhaps uniquely prepared to take advantage of the opportunity Perry's stumble presented. In analyzing the straw poll results, Byron York of the Washington Examiner remarked on Cain's "deep, booming voice and a style that any motivational speaker would envy," perhaps not realizing that long before he became a presidential candidate, Cain was quite popular as a motivational speaker at business conferences. He also spent years as a talk-radio host on Atlanta's WSB radio (which was where I first met him in 2007) and was one of the most popular speakers at Tea Party rallies in 2009 and 2010.
And it sounds like Cain knows more about how to do a bus tour than the president:
Cain's ability to fire up conservative crowds as a speaker is unmatched by any of his rivals for the 2012 nomination, but his ability to win over grassroots Republicans one-on-one also stood him in good stead in Orlando. "When people meet Herman, they like Herman," the candidate's spokeswoman, Ellen Carmichael, observed to me several months ago. Cain's cheerful confidence and down-to-earth good humor win him friends everywhere he goes. In the week leading up to the Florida straw poll, he traversed the state on a "Common Sense Solutions" bus tour, and he spent much of the weekend meeting informally with delegates in small groups.
Cain as nominee gives me pause on several fronts: he doesn't know much about foreign policy (remember his bafflement when Chris Wallace asked him about the Palestinian "right of return"?), and he has had no experience in government.
The latter could be a plus; however, given the abysmal performance of the largely inexperienced Obama administration voters may look for a combination of public and private sector experience. On the job training for a new president in 2013? Scary thought, but of course no president comes into the job knowing how to be president. They learn how or they don't.
But Cain is refreshing, believes in limited government and, though the mainstream media tends to treat conservative African Americans as traitors, his presence on the ticket would make it more difficult for Democrats to play the race card, which isn't the ace it used to be, but they'll want to use it in a year when they have few achievements to tout.
And-you know–Mr. Cain tells it like it is. Here is an example. Let's face it–Herman Cain is a hoot.
But don't laugh to hard–Mr. Cain may have a future.