T-minus 11 months and counting- and the pundits are pulling their hair out, still unsure of which GOP candidate will emerge to challenge President Obama next November. Even former Bush strategist Karl Rove can’t predict this one, as his muddled crystal ball (powered by either good or evil- you decide) has yet to predict the primary winner. Another 14 grueling primary debates are on the horizon, and there is no telling who may come out on top with a fickle electorate that is more cynical than ever. Enter Herman Cain.
If you haven’t followed politics because you’re still upset about Webster’s unsuccessful bid for governor of CA, or Levi Johnston’s failure to capture the Wisalia, AK mayoral seat, then it’s time to take a ride on the Cain Train. There’s only one problem: who is Herman Cain? Looking back towards the end of September, Cain was averaging five percent support for the Republican nomination- well behind front-runners Perry (27%) and Romney (21%). As of October 26, Cain is leading all Republicans at 25%, including a slim 1-point lead over Gov. Romney and a commanding 14-point lead over Gov. Perry. So what is behind this little-known candidate’s meteoric rise to the top?
Having never held political office, Herman Cain is running as the alternative to the more “conventional” candidates in a GOP race otherwise consisting of current and former politicians. When asked during a debate about his lack of political experience, Cain pointed out the gridlock in Washington amongst career politicians and asked “How’s that working for you?” His smooth debate style, sense of humor, southern drawl and simplistic approach has been drawing in conservatives like a magnet. But are his solutions too simplistic? Cain was the among the first of the candidates to introduce a radical new plan to replace the current tax structure, which he calls his “9-9-9 Plan.” Basically, under Cain’s plan there would a 9% business flat tax, a 9% personal income tax, and a new 9% national sales tax.
The 9-9-9 Plan was simple, bold, and attacked almost immediately by republicans and democrats alike. Conservatives hate the idea of a new national sales tax, fearing that a Liberal congress could raise it higher than 9% in the future. Progressives attacked the 9% personal income tax on the basis that nearly half of Americans do not currently pay any income tax, and that a hike certainly is not welcome in the current economic situation.
“His problem lies with his tax plan,” says David Gibbs, a 3L and registered Democrat. “I don’t think republican primary voters are ready to pass a national sales tax, even if it means they only pay 9% personal and corporate rates.”
“Cain represents the businessman, non-politician, who identifies with not only small business owners, but their employees as well,” says Cameron Spencer, a 2L and president of the Jeffersonian Law Republicans. “Americans are sick of one-word overarching goals like 'Change' or 'Hope;' they want a roadmap on how we are going to revive our economy. His 9-9-9 Plan is his biggest edge over the other candidates.”
Cain claims the plan will expand GDP by $2 Trillion, create 6 million new jobs, increase business investment by one third, and increase wages by 10%.
The month of October not only saw Cain’s numbers explode, but Gov. Perry’s number implode. Perry’s fall from the top has many wondering if a similar fate is in store for Cain. When Perry burst out on the scene in August, he had a record, name recognition and a huge political war chest. After a couple of dismal debate performances, coupled with remarks that made him appear to be soft on illegal immigration, Perry plummeted. On the other hand, Cain has harnessed his “underdog” image and, through his economic plan and solid debate performances, managed to make his way from the bottom to the top of the national polls.
“I think that Herman Cain has risen in recent polls for several reasons,” said Gibbs. “The rest of the field has a hard time when they are matched against the President in the general election, and primary voters want a candidate that can beat President Obama more than anything else. Herman Cain is charismatic and socially conservative. He is not an establishment candidate at a time when politicians are about as popular as a toothache.”
"Herman Cain's rise is indicative of the pulse of the nation,” added Spencer. “He has also served as the non-Romney candidate. People who are not yet sure about Romney have been exploring a Cain presidency."
Herman Cain, 65, was born in Atlanta, GA to a housewife mother and a chauffeur/janitor father. Cain made a name for himself while working for Pillsbury, where he rehabilitated a low performing chain of Burger King restaurants. In 1988, Cain went on to become the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, where he led the failing corporation to profitability within 14 months. During the ‘90’s, Cain served as both the CEO of the National Restaurant Association, and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Cain has also served on the boards of Nabisco, Whirlpool, and Reader’s Digest among others.
As of October 26, Cain trails only Romney in 3 of the first 4 Republican primary states. Cain has distinguished himself from Romney as the more socially and fiscally conservative candidate, however Republicans still seem unsure of how Cain would fair against President Obama- especially when compared to a well prepared and polished candidate in Mitt Romney. Look for Cain to tout the simplicity of the 9-9-9 Plan, versus Romney’s 59-point economic plan. Their next debate is on November 9th at Oakland University, in Gov. Romney’s home state of MI. You can stream this, and all past debates at www.2012presidentialelectionnews.com.