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October 09, 2011 11:30 AM What to do with a ‘top-tier’ candidate

By Steve Benen

Republican Herman Cain boasted the other day that he’s a “top-tier” presidential candidate, and the rest of the GOP field is afraid “that this long shot may not be a long shot any longer.”

At a certain level, I suppose there’s some truth to this. Though the Republican top tier has fluctuated quite a bit over the last several months — including, at various times, Romney, Perry, Pawlenty, and Bachmann — Cain can credibly claim a slot, at least for now. Recent polling shows him at or near the top of the multi-candidate field, even surging to the lead in some states.

And yet, when the political world asks whether Cain is to be taken seriously as a presidential contender, the answer isn’t obvious.

Matt Yglesias joked the other day he “can’t believe we’ve reached the point where I’m going to have to start doing hits on Herman Cain’s policy ideas,” adding yesterday:

Not that Herman Cain is going to win the GOP nomination, but can I just note for a minute how absurd it is that he’s doing well enough in the polls that those of us in the media need to pay some attention to what he’s saying and his ideas?

He’s not a real politician. He’s not a notably successful businessman. And most of all, he hasn’t spent any time learning about the issues.

To help prove the point, Cain said yesterday, “When they ask me who’s the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan I’m going to say, you know, I don’t know. Do you know?”

How presidential of him.

Part of the problem here is that it’s hard to be sure Cain is actually a presidential candidate, as opposed to being the head of a vanity exercise intended to sell books and line up a post-2012 media career. He’s not only failing to invest the time to learn the basics about public policy, he’s also spending very little time campaigning. The New York Times noted the other day that Cain arranged a “whirlwind trip through New York City” this week, which included some media appearances and power lunches, but Cain “did all but one thing — campaign.”

He doesn’t maintain much of a schedule —- according to his public campaign calendar of events, “19 of the 31 days of October are blank” — and doesn’t bother raising a lot of money. Cain has hired staffers for key posts, but they have a nasty habit of resigning after being around the candidate for a short while. Cain hasn’t even bothered to put together any meaningful ideas for an agenda, other than the deeply silly “9-9-9” tax plan, which includes numbers that don’t come close to adding up.

This week, Cain even admitted he’s open to running as the GOP nominee’s running mate — the kind of thing real candidates simply never say, because they’re supposed to be focused on winning the nomination. Cain has also admitted that he’s considered ending his campaign more than once, and he planned to take time from his presidential bid to launch a separate book tour.

I can read the polls as closely as the next observer, but I haven’t seen much in the way of evidence that Cain deserves to be taken seriously.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

Comments

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  • zandru on October 09, 2011 11:54 AM:

    The Sara Palin Approach

    Well, look how well it worked for the former half-term quitter of Alaska? People pay her the big bux to "speak", she's gotten a sequence of high-dollar shows on Faux, her books have been selling well (at least to the right wing bulk buyers) - she's been making a good living off of this "campaigning for President" gig.

    Pat Buchanan and his identical twin sister Bay used to do the same thing, back in the 1980s-90s. At least on the reactionary right, it's a rapidly growing career option.

  • bcinaz on October 09, 2011 12:00 PM:

    You should probably ask the people who are choosing him in the polls why they think he's a real candidate.

  • c u n d gulag on October 09, 2011 12:01 PM:

    Well, I guess Cain's not out there listening to any Snoopy, Snoopy Poop Dogg CD's with Alan Simpson, trying to be more hoppity hip.

    What CAPTCHA?
    youiron clay

    Oh yeah! Well, you starch steel!

  • g on October 09, 2011 12:11 PM:

    The only difference between Herman Cain and Sarah Palin is a pair of Naughty Monkey pumps.

  • Kathryn on October 09, 2011 12:17 PM:

    I see Cain as the African-American Sarah Palin, he makes righties believe They aren't bigots, which they are and he mocks knowledge which is one of the hallmarks of their movement. We're Murricans we rule the world and don't need to know about other cultures or leaders, screw them, we got nukes and AK 47s, It's a blend of cavemen/fascists, but don't tell them they are heartless, it hurts their feelings!

  • N.Wells on October 09, 2011 12:20 PM:

    "When they ask me who's the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan I'm going to say, you know, I don't know."
    Yet it's a safe bet that Cain's Teabagger supporters, also don't know, but, if asked, would poll as hating him and being in favor of bombing his country.

    You could probably push that to 100% by frontloading the question with the information that Obama just issued a trade agreement and a declaration of friendship between our peoples.

    Overall, I'm with Zandru here. Were Republican voters put off by the abysmal geopolitical ignorance of Palin, Bachmann, or Perry in the ongoing primaries, or more largely of Reagan, Bush the Lesser, or a substantial number of Republican Senators and Congresscritters?

  • walt on October 09, 2011 12:47 PM:

    Cain's candidacy is the punchline to the joke that right-wingers aren't racists. There's nothing else there except the validation of white victimhood, only this time with black skin. It's hardly an accident that Cain is Hank Williams, Jr's favorite candidate.

  • hells littlest angel on October 09, 2011 1:21 PM:

    Which Republican isn't running a vanity campaign?

  • rough draft on October 09, 2011 1:40 PM:

    When one of these bible-pounders realizes that his 9-9-9 turned right side up spells out who he is--that will be the end of his race for the top.

  • T2 on October 09, 2011 1:41 PM:

    I have very,very Hard Right deep South relatives. That they have actual Klan members in the family tree is idicative of their racial bias. They are still incensed..and I mean really incensed that the Liberals put a black man in the White House. They are not alone in the GOP. They might agree with the crazed speeches Cain makes, but they'll never vote for a black man. Ever.

  • Skip on October 09, 2011 2:58 PM:

    I do not understand Cain. For the past two years, has he been walking around with his mouth at full volume and his ears on mute, because how else could he be missing all those subtle messages/jokes/hatreds floating around his own party about the black man already in the White House. Of course, he could be attributing all that hatred to liberalism, and/or he's that kind of new-religious where reality takes a back seat to personally held beliefs; augmented by the sheltering of position and wealth and bolstered by the pastor of a wealthy church.

    After the past two years, I cannot imagine a 2012 election where We, the People get to vote on two black men, a conservative and a liberal, for POTUS. I am incredulous just typing it.

    If Cain can't hear, let alone address the murmurings of his own chosen political party, is it too much to assume he wouldn't be hearing, let alone addressing the needs of the America he proposes to lead?

  • Sean Scallon on October 09, 2011 3:17 PM:

    He's basically a waystation until some voters can make up their minds. Who knows, after the next debate they'll be back to Rick Perry, or even Michele Bachmann! Yeah, that's how it's going right now.

    And right now, who has the best organization in Iowa? Ron Paul.

  • max on October 09, 2011 3:23 PM:

    "This week, Cain even admitted he’s open to running as the GOP nominee’s running mate — the kind of thing real candidates simply never say, because they’re supposed to be focused on winning the nomination. Cain has also admitted that he’s considered ending his campaign more than once, and he planned to take time from his presidential bid to launch a separate book tour."

    He wants to be President. He wants to be Vice President. He wants to end his campaign. He wants to take a vacation, aka a "book tour". You almost want to vote for this jerkoff just to watch his head explode when he wins (just kidding).

  • Quaker in a Basement on October 09, 2011 3:35 PM:

    JUNIOR
    Say, I gotten idee.

    ECKARD
    What sat, Junior?

    JUNIOR
    We could hire us a little fella even
    smaller'n Stokes's.

  • -syzygy- on October 09, 2011 4:14 PM:

    Cain like Palin, is an authentic living historical footnote.

  • DK on October 09, 2011 4:36 PM:

    I find it interesting that Cain's complete lack of political experience is somehow considered a plus.

  • Anonymous on October 09, 2011 5:19 PM:

    OK, so let's add this up, a black guy who made his fortune based on a business whose name was an ethnic slur on Italians is wowing the Republicans. . .

  • Eli Rabett on October 09, 2011 5:21 PM:

    OK, so let's add this up, a black guy who made his fortune based on a business whose name was an ethnic slur on Italians is wowing the Republicans. . .

    A white guy who paid for law school as a male model (and you can look up what they do for money) is the Republican senator from Massachusetts. . .

    You couldn't make it up

  • exlibra on October 09, 2011 5:48 PM:

    [...] the deeply silly “9-9-9” tax plan, which includes numbers that don’t come close to adding up. -- Steve Benen

    Silly? Numbers don't add up? How wrong can you be, Steve?

    999 is 666 turned on it's head, upside down, *opposite* of 666.
    666 is the sign of Satan; ie it's *bad*
    999 being the reverse of 666 it is, ipso facto *good*
    Ergo, Cain's plan is *good*. QED

  • Death Panel Truck on October 09, 2011 6:38 PM:

    It's hardly an accident that Cain is Hank Williams, Jr's favorite candidate.

    But ask Bocephus if he'd ever vote for Cain:

    "Ah, hell nah, he's a N****R!"

  • MuddyPolitics on October 09, 2011 6:57 PM:

    "I can read the polls as closely as the next observer, but I haven�t seen much in the way of evidence that Cain deserves to be taken seriously."

    He doesn't deserve to be taken seriously. Neither do the polls>>> The Herman Cain Polling Paradox: 38% favor him, but only 9% know he's a candidate

  • Steve High on October 10, 2011 12:18 AM:

    No one, not Ross Perot, not Steve Forbes, not Pat Buchanan, not Ralph Nader--no one--has ever been elected president from the private sector. You need to be a governor, a congressman, or a general before you run for the highest office in the land.

    The voters might take a chance on a kid to watch their dog who has never done it before, but they won't take a chance on a pizza man for president.

    Cain could win the Republican nomination, however, if the people who say ANYBODY but Romney really mean it. Cain could win Iowa, then New Hampshire, and with no except Fox News to vet him, go on to represent their sick, sick party against Obama.

  • mfw13 on October 10, 2011 6:28 AM:

    The problem is that that the Republicans have no "top tier" candidates...yet one of them is still going to win the nomination by default. Romney is probably the highest quality candidate in terms of pure intelligence, but it's quite telling that roughly 70-80% of the GOP electorate generally refuses to support him.

    Keep in mind that since GOP primaries are winner-take-all affairs, not proportional (like Dem primaries), the GOP may very well end up with a nominee who does not have majority support within the party.

  • Marina on October 11, 2011 3:36 AM:

    Pretty insightful. Thanks!

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  • DontbeFool on November 22, 2011 4:05 AM:

    Cain has only recieved attention due to the media giving him the spotlight.

    Ron Paul is the only choice to fix our countries woes. Wake up!

  • Mumudede on December 15, 2011 8:27 AM:

    Finally, after all the sex scandals hernan cain give up on presidential


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