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Why Herman Cain is the new Sarah Palin

Updated on November 4, 2011

Around the same time that the Herman Cain's sex scandal hit the airwaves there was another story that hit around the same time. This one was about the funneling of money from a non-profit to Herman Cain's campaign and the breaking of a number of campaign laws. This was similar to violations that Cain's campaign manager, Mark Block, had been accused of previously and if true would be a much more serious charge then the allegations of sexual harassment that have swirled around him. Despite the fact that the violations of campaign finance law, if true, would be a much bigger story, the media doesn't care about it. Sex scandals sell more papers and get higher ratings, so if we do hear about the campaign finance scandal again, it will likely be in the general election or Mark Block will fall on his sword in order to try and keep Cain from being implicated in what his campaign has been up to.

I bring this up for two reasons. The first is that despite what you hear from many on the right, the media is actually doing Herman Cain a favor by focusing on this sex scandal rather than on his campaign finance scandal. My second point is that this scandal is actually helping Cain and that while he is personally making analogies to Clarence Thomas, I can't help but be reminded of Sarah Palin.

Like Palin, Cain was a relative unknown who suddenly came into the national Republican spotlight. Like Palin, Cain is dynamic and likable, bubbling with charisma and humor. Like Palin, Cain is a member of a "minority group" and can get away with saying things that would be considered outrageously offensive if a white male would say them. And finally, like Palin, Cain is a constant source of controversy, scandal and gaffes that he nonsensically blames on the media, racism and even other Republicans in attempts to make himself a professional victim. Like Palin, Cain represents the mindset of the Tea Party Republicans, who feels that their country has been taken from them by minorities and liberals. In short, Herman Cain is what Sarah Palin used to be and he isn't going anywhere, no matter how the Democrats and even some in the Republican establishment have smugly declared him to be a "flavor of the week."

The reasons that we have seen so many front runners rise and fall does not apply to Cain. The first front runner that Cain is compared to is Donald Trump. But Trump was never even really in the race. The only reason he did so well in polls is because he is so famous. Michelle Bachman also isn't analogous to Cain. While she tried to grab the same base of support that Cain now has, and she said a number of crazy things but Bachman, when called on her bull, looks like a deer in the headlights. When Cain has his views questioned, even when they don't make sense, he cops an attitude at the interviewer and then claims later that he was set up or the victim of bias media. (like Palin.) Rick Perry lost his front runner status when he said children of illegal immigrants deserved the opportunity for an education and cemented it through a series of embarrassing debate performances. The one thing we don't have to worry about with Herman Cain is that he will show sympathy for the poor or marginalized, or that he will not be so in love with the sound of his own voice that he will be at a loss for words.

This may bring up the question, do I think Cain will win the nomination? Let me just say that I have a horrible track record at this. I picked John McCain in 2000, and Mike Huckabee in 2008. In the Democratic primary of 2004 I picked Wesley Clark. My only win at predicting was saying that Obama would be the nominee in 2008 for the Democrats and I almost lost at that one too. What I will say is that Cain has a much better chance than either right or left wing pundits generally think.

Cain supporters do not care about the facts. I argue frequently with people who don't believe that Cain's 9-9-9 plan will raise their taxes.

Cain says things constantly that are inconsistent nonsense, heartless and cruel and just poison in the general election if he were to get the nomination. The problem with this as a predictor of his chances of winning the nomination is that he has taken all of these hits. He already survived attacks on his 9-9-9 plan from other Republicans. He has already survived not knowing anything about foreign policy and his abortion stance that makes no sense. Seven out of ten Republicans say his sexual harassment allegations do not matter and now he is stronger than ever. Both establishment Republicans and Democrats need to face the fact that, win or lose, Herman Cain is here to stay. Like Palin, he will be a voice in the Tea Party movement even if he never runs for another elected office.

One of the odd things about many voters is that we want our politicians to be better than us and just like us at the same time. To the average Tea Party supporter, Herman Cain is just like them. His views are just like theirs. He came from modest means and just like them he doesn't know anything about being President. This is a bonus for them. He is just like them, but has become very rich and successful. For the Tea Party he fits the mold of better than me but just like me at the same time. This was the same thing that helped Sarah Palin. Republican supporters of Palin were more likely to mention her ideological passion and "hotness" than they were to say anything about her ability to be President. Cain supporters will talk about his business success and will ignore the fact that he doesn't know a thing about how our government works or what the President actually does. After all, he is just like them on that score.

Already you see the Republican establishment starting to think that they created a monster with the Tea Party. Fox News getting rid of Glenn Beck and toning down their rhetoric in light of the failure to take the Senate in 2010 has been evidence of that, and the outright dismissal that Cain could win from every right wing pundit from Karl Rove and Bill O'Reilly is even more. There is a definite rift in the Republican party and nobody knows how it will play out.

Flat out, Romney still has the advantage. But the idea that it is a 90% probability that he will be the nominee is just some shallow conventional wisdom. I think it is closer to 60-40 between him and Cain. Perry or any other candidate could not stage a comeback at this point. Only a complete flame out by Cain could possibly help another candidate and then it would almost certainly lead to Romney winning. Romney's main competition is actually Huntsman to get the moderate vote, and maybe some establishment Republicans are still hanging on to Gingrich but most of the other candidates are really taking votes away from the more conservative Cain.

Here is a possible scenario. The first Caucus is Iowa, Romney and Cain are in a statistical tie. If the passion of Cain's supporters win out then he will almost certainly win South Carolina, where he is way ahead, and lose New Hampshire to Romney. (where he is way ahead.) At this point it is very possible that Bachman and Santorum will drop out. With both Florida and Nevada in statistical ties between Cain and Romney, the loss of those two social conservatives will help Cain more than Romney and he could win four out of five early states. Note that the next caucus in Maine also shows Cain ahead in the polls and that Cain is in a statistical tie with Perry in Texas and is ahead in Ohio, which will vote on Super Tuesday.

In this possible scenario, Cain would not only beat Romney but annihilate him. Of course Romney could win Iowa and New Hampshire and then swing the momentum his way. A lot will depend on at what point Bachman, Santorum, Gingrich and Perry end up leaving the race. (both Paul and Huntsmen are running largely symbolic campaigns and will likely stay in the race.)

It is completely possible that Romney might blow out Cain by Super Tuesday or vice versa, or that the race may come down to a close race between the both of them by then. To deny that Cain COULD win is just stupid. Some use race as a reason why he can't win but this is pretty absurd based on anything but an outdated model of party politics. Cain is the most popular in the South and if a black man can win in the South then he is competitive.

Of course if Cain does pull off the upset and wins the nomination it will be a huge victory for the Tea Party. And probably more importantly, for the President.


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    • Robephiles profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Rachel Maddow recently did a segment where she claimed Cain's campaign couldn't possibly be this funny on accident and was actually a bit of performance art. I think she was being fastidious, and just pointing out that Cain has done everything you could possibly do to screw up a political campaign and the Republicans still love him. But some of his comments, videos etc. seem to be satires of Conservative ideas and candidates. If a comedian made them I would call him a genius.

      Right now all the early states have either Romney in the lead with Cain second or vice versa. Newt Gingrich is gaining ground to replace Perry as the third but I couldn't imagine him winning any of the first five states and that means he will likely be out. Cain could win the nomination if Perry and Bachman drop out before Florida or right afterward. Their votes would much more likely go to Cain over Romney.

      Last time we had four moderates competing: McCain, Romney, Giuliani and Huckabee (who was socially conservative but economically moderate.) Those were the front runners. This time we have Romney and Huntman as the only moderates and once the other ultraconservatives start to drop out if they unite behind one candidate Romney is toast.

      Obama's staff have got to be loving this.

    • chefsref profile image

      Lee Raynor 

      7 years ago from Citra Florida

      Hey Robephiles

      I am heartened by the fact that Republicans are doing what they can to reelect Obama. All of Obama's many faults pale in comparison to a crazy candidate on the right. I actually like Huntsman so that means he has no chance. Romney?? Who knows what he believes? He was okay in Mass. but now panders to the nut jobs to get the nomination. This is shaping up to be the strangest election in my lifetime. Imagine a President Cain! The entire world will laugh at us.

    • Robephiles profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      He might get some evangelical Christians who don't like his Mormonism to vote for the Constitution Party or stay home, but I doubt it will be significant. What I really worry about with Romney is his popularity in Massachusetts and Michigan bring those blue states in play when they should be easy wins for Obama.

      If I were Obama I would make sure to play up his flip flopping in those states and push his support for SB5 in Ohio, which will likely be repealed on Tuesday, to make the case against him.

    • mortimerjackson profile image


      7 years ago from California

      Do you think that when Romney wins the primaries, the Tea Baggers will support Romney? Or will they be disenfrachised, and simply not vote at all?

    • Robephiles profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Cain couldn't win the general election. He has already lost it if he were to get the nomination. The Republican establishment knows this and that is why they are flipping out over the prospect of Cain winning the nomination.

      Cain was also a radio host and sometimes fill-in host for hosts like Neil Boortz. He had a bigger name recognition than Palin but not by much. As much as talk radio is played up, the audience for it is pretty small.

      A Cain nomination would mean that he would get trounced in the general election, unless something outlandish, like the economy completely collapses. I wouldn't even know how to run a Romney campaign. He is Mr. Vanilla, which is his problem. But the conventional wisdom is Romney is the better candidate than Cain in the general election. If the Tea Party gives Cain the win and Obama annihilates Cain, the Republican establishment will be furious with the Tea Party.

      I would personally be fascinated to see that scenario. Tea Party vs. Establishment Republicans has become a friendly disagreement but it could turn into an all out war. This will of course be awesome news for the Democrats.

    • mortimerjackson profile image


      7 years ago from California

      Cain lost the election before he even started running. He's not as much of a newcomer as Sarah Palin. He's been in the press before as the token black Republican on Fox News. Suffice to say, he's said a lot of insensitive things that don't make him look good to very many people, not the least of which are black voters.

      As for Romney winning, I wouldn't count on it. On top of the Tea Bag Republicans not liking him, the mainstream of America doesn't have very much to say about him. There is no selling point to Mitt Romney that would make people want to vote for him rather than Obama. The only way Obama loses is if voter turn-out is incredibly low.

      Having said that, there is still a lot of time until the election. A lot can change in that time. But if the general election were to happen today, Obama stands a better chance at winning than Mitt Romney.


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