Tuesday, October 18, 2011

First impression of Cain plays out

Back in June, I wrote that after the first Republican presidential debate, Herman Cain came across as a serious, even viable candidate. It's amusing now to see that Cain, the unlikely politician, has risen to the top of the GOP field, at least in some polls. With another debate scheduled tonight, Cain will have another opportunity to live up to his newfound ranking.

Cain is still an unlikely candidate. With no campaigning or governing experience, he has a handicap vs. his more experienced opponents. Still, he has struck a chord with some voters. He comes across as folksy, jovial and avuncular. His 9-9-9 plan has taken off, despite the fact that it would shift tax burden to the poor and low-income and probably would not produce enough revenue, analysts say, to cover the federal government's expenses. Cain continues to pitch the plan with the fervor of a snake-handling evangelist and is not about to back down, even to questions about whether 9-9-9 might turn into 12-12-12 (percent sales tax, personal income tax and corporate tax).

What Cain's rise in the polls indicates is that voters are not particularly interested in a candidate's race or color. The GOP electorate is conservative and predominantly white, but a plurality of GOP voters polls say they like Cain and support him. If Cain's race has handicapped him in any way, it's not apparent.

Cain remains highly unlikely to win the nomination, and as his platform comes under greater scrutiny and his foreign policy inexperience becomes more apparent, he is likely to slide in the polls. Still, his accomplishment as a businessman taking on the political establishment is impressive. He has livened up the GOP debate without venturing over the cliff with Ron Paul.

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