How Herman Cain became a GOP front runner

Oct 07, 2011

For months, Herman Cain languished on the margins of the Republican presidential campaign. But in the past few weeks, something happened that even Cain did not see coming. He became a front-runner for the nomination.

Chat with Sandhya Somashekhar about how Herman Cain gained popularity in the GOP race. Ask her questions and submit your opinions now!

Related: Herman Cain's surprising rise to GOP front-runner

Hi! Getting here a bit late, but glad to take your questions today on Herman Cain.


He's spending two weeks on a book tour. He has no real organization in any of the early states. No significant number of elected officials have endorsed him. Is this just a moneymaking stunt for him?

It's possible, though an entrepreneurial fellow like Herman Cain can probably think of a lot of ways to make money that don't involve going through the ringer of a presidential campaign.

Where is the Southern Racism the Liberal Press and Democrats continue to accuse the republicans of? Cain is 100% African American. Obama is 50% Caucasian. The latest polls have Cain up 10 to 24% in NC, Georgia and Nebraska. He is also largely support by the tea party. Will this stop their false accusations of racism simply for disagreeing with the lousy job Obama is doing?

I hear this a lot from conservatives, and I think Cain's presence in this election is going to spark a lot of interesting discussions about race.

To answer your question, though, no, I doubt it will quiet the concerns raised by liberals about racist strains in the tea party. In fact, some of them have tried to argue that Cain's popularity is simply a convenient rebuttal to the accusations of racism.

Do we have any sense of which Republican voters are supporting Cain? Are they conservatives who previously backed Perry or Bachmann? People new to the process?

Our recent poll suggests that a lot of the people who defected from Perry are backing Cain.

Successful in business, staccato rhetoric based in platitudes, lack of foreign policy credentials, head-scratching campaign scheduling and organization... The Hermanator outlasted the Donald sans TV franchise, but isn't the ending the same?

Well, I do think that Cain exhibits a lot of the same appeal as Trump. If you recall, Trump wasn't doing half badly in the GOP polls early on and had a huge influence on the tone of the race.

How do you think Herman Cain's attack on Rick Perry's ranch rock name will affect his standing among Republicans?

Some conservatives definitely accused Cain of pulling "the race card" when he called the term on the rock insensitive. Cain has had to backtrack quite a bit. But it's hard to imagine that it will have a major impact on Cain's standing in the polls.

Disappointing but not surprising to see Cain haul out the old red-meat "gay is not a choice" canard. Is that outdated (and scientifically disproven) chestnut pretty much required talking points for anyone hoping to get the GOP nomination? When Romney, on record for supporting gay rights, starts parroting it, I'll know that the GOP have gone completely around the bend.

Herman Cain is a Christian minister and a social conservative, so his views are going to hew closely to that segment of the population for whom homosexuality and gay marriage is a big issue. A lot of the GOP candidates this time around come from that Christian conservative background, which I think is one reason you're seeing that question come up so much.


If Rick Perry puts in a credible performance in the next debate, does that mean it's all over for Cain?

Good question. I think that's very possible. But Perry's done a lot of damage to his candidacy and he hasn't done a ton to right the ship yet, so it will probably take more than one good debate performance to win all that support back.

That doesn't make sense. A racist would not support an African American for any reason. The fact is Cain has great ideas and he is not a politician. Those are the 2 reasons he is doing well.

Just thought I'd put this comment out there.

If I dial 9-9-9, will you send me over a Chilean model?

Nerdy but funny. If you get this then you must live in Washington.

Wow, you spin with the best of them. Never let anything get in the way of preconceived notions. I guess the world makes more sense if you follow that procedure. As someone who largely supports the Tea Party - at least the original fiscal focus of the movement - and knowing more than a few TP activists, I see no ingrained or inherent racism at all. Sure, there might be some racist kooks who are members or supporters, but you could say that about any group of people.

Again, a worthwhile comment to throw out there.

Isn't a lot of Cain's popularity simply anti establishment sentiment. I'm pretty sure if I changed my name to "None of the above," "Anyone but," or "Poke in the eye with a sharp stick" I'd run in the top place in most polls. Every election a whole bunch of people get elected because selecting a random strange off the street seems more desirable than putting either of the two main parties candidates. To me this says more about the other Rep candidates than Mr. Cain.

You are definitely seeing a major anti-establishment attitude among voters right now. But it's worth noting that the frontrunner in most of these polls continues to be Mitt Romney, who is by no means an off-the-street choice.

I think it will be tremendous, heaven willing, that Mr. Cain gets the GOP prez nomination. The "race card " will almost immediately be eliminated from the campaign picture. He is also a very qualified person with regards to problem solving and getting goals accomplished. Don't you think as he gets more exposure the republican establishment would do the organizing ?

He hasn't yet been subject to the same vetting, by the media or his rivals, as some of the other candidates who took their turn at frontrunner. That is going to change, and probably has already. If he survives the ringer maybe then you'll see that kind of outpouring of support.

Trump started with millions and made billions. TOTALLY DIFFERENT. Cain started with virtually nothing. He didn't go to Univ. of GA (or harvard for that matter) due to quotas and racism, which is how he ended up at morehouse. He doesn't harp on his race except to tell funny stories of segregation to show where he came from. He had much of nothing growing up - but was shown by his parents how to work hard to get where you want to go. Not so much the same story as trump....

Good point.

Could Cain be helped by being Black in the same way that Obama was on the Democratic side?

Last question, I wish I could have taken more!

I think Cain's personal story helps him, and since he grew up in the segregated South obviously race is part of that. I also think a lot of conservatives are delighted by the opportunity to support an African American with whom they agree on the issues,  just as many of President Obama's supporters were proud to help elect the nation's first black president.

But it's really about the economy right now, and ultimately this election will hinge on who persuades voters that they are best equipped to  handle it.

Thanks everyone!

Hey -- that's more than a bit presumptive isn't it? I DON'T live in the beltway and the 9-9-9 chilean reference was not beyond my ken. geez no wonder people hate all things 'inside the beltway.'

Sorry! Wasn't trying to insult anyone's intelligence.

In This Chat
Sandhya Somashekhar
Sandhya came to The Washington Post in 2006 as a Virginia reporter. She joined the national staff in 2010 to help cover the midterm elections. She lives in the District with her husband, Justin Jouvenal, who is also a reporter at the Post.

Follow Sandhyra on Twitter: @sandhyawp
Recent Chats
  • Next: