Does Herman Cain have a shot? The Fix's Aaron Blake discusses.

Sep 28, 2011

The Fix's Aaron Blake chatted about whether or not Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has a shot at winning the GOP nomination.

Related: Can Herman Cain deliver an upset?

Welcome to the chat everyone. I think we're all taking a second look at Herman Cain after his win at the Presidency 5 Straw Poll in Florida over the weekend.

I want to know what you want to know about the former Godfather's Pizza CEO. (And we're not talking thin crust or deep dish.)

I would like to do this in the style of The Fix, which means we want this to be light-hearted yet educational. Submit your questions, and let's have a little fun with this...

I think that once Cain gets some more media attention so more Americans know who he is and what he represents the question will not be "Can he win the primary" but will be "How much will he win the primary by". According to the latest gallup poll Cain is the most liked of all the candidates, he just doesn't have the same level of recognition as the others. If he is able to achieve the same level of recognition that the other candidates have he will be unstoppable in the primary and will have very good chances in the general election against Obama.

This is a great point. Despite his strong showing in the first debate and now the straw poll, Cain remains among the least well-known presidential candidates. And the people who do know him seem to like him A LOT, as reflected by his positive intensity score.

The question for him is whether he can translate this newfound press attention into donations, which will help him get on TV and potentially run a real campaign in Iowa. It's an open question. (And a note: the third quarter fundraising period ends this weekend, so we should know soon whether he's getting a surge in contributions.)

Many of the GOP presidential candiates have rather, um, colourful views. Where does Cain fit in the spectrum? is he more on the Bachmann-Paul full-fledged looney group, or more towards the almost-like-the-guy-next-door Romney end?

I see him running as more of a mainstream conservative than a tea paty candidate like Michele Bachmann. We saw this week that Cain came out against the Republican House's insistence that federal disaster aide be tied to spending cuts (More here: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20111673-503544.html). That's a more pragmatic, mainstream position than most of his opponents are taking.

How many candidates have won such straw polls and then faded? I'm not a gambler, but I'd bet $10k he won't be the nominee. The fact that he makes blatantly false statements (e.g., if Obamacare had been in effect when he had cancer a government bureaucrat would have decided what his private insurer would have funded), and not because he advocates actions that are unconstitutional if not hateful (e.g., saying communities should be able to ban a mosque because he doesn't regard Islam as a religion) or just silly (e.g., Palestinian leaders wouldn't have pushed statehood at the U.N. if he'd been in power in the U.S.).

You don't need to have a long memory to find an example of this. Michele Bachmann won the supposedly all-important Ames Straw Poll in Iowa just more than a month ago, and we've already seen here campaign fade significantly.

The problem with Cain's victory is that it appears he was putting forward a lot more effort than any of his opponents. He doesn't beat Rick Perry more than two-to-one if Perry's team is being as active as his is.

At the same time, this was a good strategy by Cain. He cornered the market on the Florida straw poll, and he's reaping the rewards.

He passes the purity test! But in case you haven't noticed, he's black, and will be rejected by the knuckledraggers that control the teabaggers.

Four years ago, we didn't think Iowa Democrats would nominate a black candidate, but they did. I'm not saying race isn't an issue in America, but 2008 showed us that things can surprise us.

A reference point: Alan Keyes, who is also black, took 14 percent in the Iowa GOP caucus in 2000. Cain is a much better candidate than Keyes was, so I'm not ready to say it's not possible a guy like Cain can win Iowa -- which is really the operative state for him.

I am fed up with many of the career politicians on both sides, democrat and republican, so I feel strongly for voting for someone like Cain who isn't a politician but i'm not sure how the rest of the country feels. Do you think that not being a politician will help him in the elections or hurt him?

Hate to give you a wishy-washy answer, but ... yes and no. It helps a lot in certain ways, and it hurts a lot in certain ways.

There is certainly an appetite for non-politicians in this country. We saw it in the 2010 House elections. But when you're talking about a presidential election, plenty of people want someone who has shown they can actually govern. Cain is also not as smooth answering questions as a lot of his opponents, and if he DOES get taken more seriously, it may be tough for him to handle the scrutiny that goes along with it. But being the only non-politician on the stage does give him a niche, and he needs to focus on that to differentiate himself.

So, who do I , shall we say, "tip" over there in MSM to stop covering meaningless straw polls as if they were actual primaries? Seems to me if you sepnt as much time covering actual ISSUES as you do the outcome of meaningless contests like straw polls, you'd do the reading public a service. Seriously, I have a five-spot here ready to put into someone's hand...

We certainly have seen the media step back and ask how much these straw polls really mean, and this year, they haven't meant much. (See our piece on this very topic here: http://is.gd/rDTAX7)

What the straw polls do show is organizational fortitude. It takes money and a solid campaign to win a straw poll. So while they may not be representative of a great candidate, they do show that his or her campaign can make an impact when it sets its mind to something. This isn't the be-all, end-all, but it's something.

Is there a point at which Michelle Bachmann's presidential bid damages her chances for reelection to the House? Or is she all-in for the presidential nod, with no intention of running for other office? I'm thinking that some of the things she has said on the national stage might cause some Minnesota voters to cast their eyes elesewhere come November 2012. Meanwhile, if she drops out early, people have a chance to forget.

Off-topic indeed! Lucky for you, we're short on questions about Cain right now.

I'm from Minnesota, and I can tell you that Bachmann's repeated insistence that she's actually an Iowan could definitely hurt her up in the Gopher State. That's essentially like running in New Jersey after saying you're a New Yorker at heart.

A lot will depend on what happens in redistricting in Minnesota. It's in the courts right now. Bachmann has been targeted by Democrats in recent years, albeit unsuccessfully. I don't think she faces any primary trouble, but her continued moving to the right and national profile could open the door to a Democrat -- provided the district is somewhat competitive.

Could he pass a basic civics course? I'm not sure he understands how governing is done.

Cain has shown himself a little un-versed in foreign policy especially. That's the problem with being a non-poltician. A guy like Mitt Romney has an answer for every question that's asked of him. Cain a few times has simply said something to the effect of: 'I'll consult my advisers who know more than me.' Not quite decisive leadership.

Watching him, I'm reminded of Godfather's deep-dish pizza: one slice and I've had enough. He seems to have some "tasty" ideas, but you have to pick through a lot of toppings to get to the meat of what he's saying, and you feel a little unsettled after consuming it.

In the words of The Couch Slouch: Pay the man, Shirley.

The main concern I have about Herman Cain's 999 plan is the sales tax he proposes. The others seem feasible. I am no economist...but is the 9% in addition to the individual state sales tax or does it replace it?

I'm no expert on tax policy, but it's supposed to be a 9 percent income tax, 9 percent corporate gains tax and a 9 percent national sales tax. I would think that any state taxes would be in addition to that. The federal government can't prevent states from taxing their residents.

I just have to comment that the simple fact that Herman Cain won the Florida straw poll is irrefutable proof that conservatives have no problems with a conservative black or other minority (Governor Haley, anybody?). It's simply stunning that somebody could look that evidence in the face and make such a stupid comment about conservatives. And of course, you'd post it.

Great point -- Republicans now have two Indian-American governors (Haley and Bobby Jindal), two Hispanic governors (Brian Sandoval and Susana Martinez) and two African-American congressmen (Allen West and Tim Scott). A few of those are in very conservative areas of the South.

Does the fact that everyone is now talking about Cain (again) and Christie (again) really speak to how much the GOP does not like Mitt Romney?

I think there is a sense that voters aren't in love with all their options, but polls don't show that Republicans dislike Romney by any stretch. Sometimes, they just want more options so they can find the best one. And Christie in particular is a very attractive one even for people who like Romney and Perry.

Thanks everyone for coming out. This has been educational for me, and I hope it was helpful for you.

And as always, keep an eye on the Washington Post website for future live chats!

In This Chat
Aaron Blake
Aaron Blake covers national politics at the Washington Post, where he writes regularly for the Fix, the Post?s top political blog. A Minnesota native and summa cum laude graduate of the University of Minnesota, Aaron has also written about politics for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and The Hill newspaper. Aaron and his wife, Danielle, live in Annandale, Va.
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