Herman Cain Rising: New Frontrunner, Or Flash In The Pan?

Is Herman Cain for real, or is this rise int he polls just another boomlet destined to fade away?

Two more national polls are confirming the fall, at least for the time being, of Rick Perry and the improbably rise of a candidate many had thought had faded away months ago. First, a new poll from CBS News and The New York Times, shows Georgia businessman Herman Cain rising into top tier status:

Herman Cain has moved into a tie with Mitt Romney atop the field of Republican presidential candidates, according to a new CBS News poll, while Rick Perry has fallen 11 percentage points in just two weeks.

The poll shows Cain, who stood at just five percent support two weeks ago, now holding 17 percent support among Republican primary voters. That puts the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO into a tie with Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, whose support has essentially held steady over the past two weeks.

Perry, meanwhile, has dropped from 23 percent support to just 12 percent support over the past two weeks, a sign that the Texas governor’s shaky debate performances – in which he has alienated portions of both the Republican base and the party establishment – have taken their toll.

Here are the full results:

  • Mitt Romney — 17% (16% two weeks ago)
  • Herman Cain — 17% (5% two weeks ago)
  • Rick Perry — 12% (23% two weeks ago)
  • Newt Gingrich — 8% (7% two weeks ago)
  • Ron Paul — 7% (5% two weeks ago)
  • Michele Bachmann — 4% (7% two weeks ago)
  • Rick Santorum — 3% (1% two weeks ago)
  • Jon Huntsman — 2% (1% two weeks ago)
  • Undecided — 18% (22% two weeks ago)

In the new Quinnipiac Poll, the numbers are somewhat identical:

  • Mitt Romney — 22%
  • Herman Cain — 17%
  • Rick Perry — 14%
  • Newt Gingrich — 8%
  • Ron Paul — 6%
  • Michele Bachmann — 3%
  • Rick Santorum — 3%
  • Jon Huntsman — 1%
  • Undecided — 18%

Public Policy Polling, meanwhile, has Herman Cain at the top in three state polls:

PPP polled Republican primary voters in three pretty different states over the weekend- North Carolina, Nebraska, and West Virginia- and found Cain leading the way in each of them as Newt Gingrich surged, Mitt Romney stayed steady, and Rick Perry saw a collapse in his support.

Here are the numbers:

North Carolina: Cain 27, Romney/Gingrich 17, Perry 15, Paul/Bachmann 6, Santorum/Huntsman 2

Nebraska: Cain 30, Gingrich 16, Romney 13, Bachmann/Perry 10, Paul 5, Santorum 4, Huntsman 2

West Virginia: Cain 24, Gingrich 18, Romney 16, Perry 15, Bachmann 8, Paul 6, Santorum 3, Huntsman 1

The reasons for Perry’s fall are pretty apparent at this point, and the poll results tend to reflect them. In the CBS Polls, for example, only one in ten Republicans surveyed said they supported Perry’s position on in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants, 58% said they have watched at least parts of the debates that took place in September, and 80% said that the way the candidates performed in the debates were at least somewhat important to them. Add all of that up, factor in three fairly disappointing debates for Perry and it’s not at all difficult to figure out what happened to him. The fortunate thing for him is that to the extent his fall is due to how he performed in the debates, that’s something that’s fixable if Perry manages to turn things around over the next several months.

What to make of Herman Cain, though?

We’ve been here before, actually. When Cain first entered the race, and after he did pretty well at the first Republican debate on Fox, he started to rise in the polls to the point where he was in second place behind Mitt Romney in many national polls in early June. That didn’t last very long, though, and in part it was due Cain himself. His comment that he wouldn’t hire a Muslim to work in his Administration, or that he thought communities should be able to ban construction of a mosque turned many people off. He also displayed a rather appalling ignorance of foreign policy issues when he showed he was unfamiliar with the Palestinian “Right of Return” debate, and somehow believed that the price of oil had something to do with Iran’s nuclear program. More importantly, though, his campaign proved completely unable to capitalize on that early surge in the polls, and he quickly fell to the middle of the pack as Michele Bachmann started to rise.

But what about this time? Is Herman Cain for real, or is he just a placeholder for people who have become disillusioned with Rick Perry but would be ready to jump back to him if they’re fears are allayed?

Based on what we see, there’s very little reason to believe that Herman Cain’s journey into the top tier of the GOP race is anything permanent. In the fundraising quarter that ended on June 30th, Cain raised an anemic $2.46 million, about the same as Jon Huntsman had raised from outside donor  in only two weeks. The campaign has yet to release its third quarter numbers, but there’s no reason to believe that he did all that much better and no reason to believe he raised anything close to what Rick Perry and Mitt Romney will have brought in for that three month period.

While money isn’t everything, as Rudy Giuliani can attest, it does help build an actual campaign organization, which is something that Cain seems to be lacking at the moment. His shoestring operations in Iowa and New Hampshire were decimated earlier this year by staff resignations. Based on his 5th place appearance in the Ames Straw Poll, it doesn’t appear that he’s rebuilt that organization at all. Just this weekend, his national Communications Director and her deputy resigned for reasons that still haven’t been fully explained. And what his Herman Cain doing right now? Is he capitalizing on his rise in the polls? No, he’s going on a book tour:

It’s momentum and recognition that the Rick Santorums and Jon Huntsmans of the GOP world must be lusting after.

But Cain seems destined to squander it. And here’s why.

As NBC’s thoughtful First Read points out this morning, Cain’s promoting a book – and appears to be taking himself off the campaign trail for almost a month.

Cain won’t be back in the key state of Iowa until November. With all of the jiggering of the Republican primary calendar, that means he’ll have six weeks (at best) to pound the trail before the Iowa caucuses in early January.

(…)

Herman Cain’s campaign isn’t dead by any means. But look at the difference between his campaign and that of Texas Congressman Ron Paul. With Paul rising in the polls, the congressman started cutting aggressive broadcast ads pounding Texas Gov. Rick Perry, among others, and hauling in campaign dollars. Paul’s got two events in New Hampshire today.

When you peel off the campaign trail for four weeks in the heat of the fight, it raises questions about just what the heck a candidate is doing in the race anyway.

This isn’t the stuff of a serious Presidential Campaign. At this point, even if Cain wanted to make the kind of moves necessary to exploit this bump in the polls it’s not even clear that he can. His campaign says that their third quarter fundraising numbers will “be enough to be competitive,” which is political talk for “they won’t really be that great, but we don’t want to say that.” That isn’t hurting Cain now because he’s running a shoestring campaign, but you cannot win a Presidential nomination on a shoestring.

More importantly, the fact of the matter is that Herman Cain hasn’t really been tested on the national stage yet. His rise in the polls this summer was so brief that there was a barely enough time to be in the focus of the press, or of his opponents. That’s not going to be the case this time. As Jazz Shaw, notes, now is the time when Herman Cain is going to be vetted, and if there’s anything he’s said or done, it’s going to come out. As a guy who had a talk radio show for many years, there’s no doubt something out there that he’s uttered that someone’s going to ask him to explain, for example.

On the policy side, there’s plenty in Cain’s record that conservatives are likely to question when they get to know more about him. He spent much of 2007 and 2008 saying in his various Op-Eds (see here, here, and here) that the economy was just fine. Then, when it started collapsing, he jumped on the TARP bandwagon, a position that is anathema to the Tea Party. Cain’s stance on gun control is, in a word, bizarre in that he essentially seems to think that the Second Amendment shouldn’t apply to the states at all. And his “9-9-9 Plan,” which is being touted by his supporters, is both bad economics and a trojan horse for the kind tax system that would hurt the poor and choke the economy. And, finally, as I’ve noted above his foreign policy positions are little more than simplistic slogans combined with some appallingly bad knowledge about what’s really going on in the world

Whether he’s ready for it or not, the national press and, mostly likely the Perry campaign, are going to be scrutinizing Herman Cain over the next few weeks. I’m betting he won’t be looking so good to the voters after it’s over.

Over at The Volokh Conspiracy, Todd Zywicki makes this observation:

Cain is starting to remind me of Huckabee the last time around-you could tell that many people were enthusiastic about him if he could gain enough of a critical mass that people might actually think of him as something like a viable candidate.  Even though I didn’t like Huckabee’s policies at all, I could appreciate the appeal of his personal warmth and likability for many people.  I don’t know that much about Cain’s policy proposals at this point but my sense is that people are drawn to him personally as well, except that his appeal is in his authenticity and sense of core convictions which is such a contrast from most politicians out there.  I think this personal appeal (although different from Huckabee’s) makes him a better bet to stick around for awhile than was the case with Bachmann who seemed to become less appealing to people the more they saw her.  It is still a definite uphill battle for Herman Cain to win the Republican nomination (and I’m definitely not saying that I am for or against him right now) but I could see him in a constant place or show position throughout the early primary season.

This may well be the case, but there are some crucial differences between Huckabee in 2008 and Herman Cain today. The first and most important, of course, is that Huckabee had a well-organized, well-funded campaign organization and was spending this time in 2007 on the ground in Iowa rather than roaming around the nation on a book tour to states that don’t even have primaries until March or April. Second, Huckabee was drawing from a group of voters, evangelicals, who are always reliable when it comes to doing the kind of grunt work that winning in a place like Iowa requires. Third, even Huckabee wasn’t able to take all of that support and all that charisma and turn it into a win in 2008. I don’t think Cain will be able to do it 2012, either. There’s no doubt he’s an energetic speaker and very charismatic, and both of these will carry him far. It’s not going to be far enough, though.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Moosebreath says:

    I vote for both floor wax and dessert topping. Cain will be the flavor of the month, and then fall back into the pack. The trick for the non-Romney portion of the primary field is being the flavor of the month for January 2012 (and thus winning Iowa and South Carolina).

    “And his “9-9-9 Plan,” which is being touted by his supporters, is both bad economics and a trojan horse for the kind tax system that would hurt the poor and choke the economy.”

    In the Republican primaries, hurting the poor is a feature, not a bug.

  2. PD Shaw says:

    Watching a bit of Chuck Todd this a.m. interviewing Cain’s manager, this show ain’t ready for primetime. No real ability to show a plan for success (we’re building slowly, but not in Iowa)

    It’s a vehicle that has been switched to neutral and will roll forward or backward based upon circumstances beyond Cain’s knowledge or direction.

  3. ponce says:

    Cain will be the flavor of the month, and then fall back into the pack.

    17% is the pack.

    Rudy Giuliani polled in the 20% range even after he’d dropped out of the race in 2008.

  4. Nikki says:

    Herman Cain Rising: New Frontrunner, Or Flash In The Pan?

    I’m not sure…think I’ll go with “Flash in the Pan” simply because I don’t like him. I do know, however, that he will NEVER be the nominee.

  5. legion says:

    Cain could probably gain another 5% if he just changed his official campaign slogan to: “He’s Not Romney!”

  6. MBunge says:

    Those poll numbers make me think that putting some money down on Gingrich might pay off. It depends if he’s willing to keep plugging away like McCain or is content to just coast his way through until eventually dropping out. I mean, who out of the field is really better qualified to be “Not Romney” than the Newtster?

    Mike

  7. Fiona says:

    I think Cain’s rise in the polls shows just how unhappy the base is with Romney. It’s kind of amazing that in a year when the incumbent is so vulnerable, the Republican field of candidates is so weak. I suspect that the smart Republicans realize that the economy is going to continue to suck for the indefinite future and would prefer not to be blamed for the mess.

  8. mattb says:

    @Fiona:

    I think Cain’s rise in the polls shows just how unhappy the base is with Romney.

    And now Perry. From a brief sampling of talkers during a recent road trip, it seems like many of them have shifted their allegiance to Cain. I’m sure it’s just me being cynical, but it seems like Cain is a perfect “toofer” candidate for talkers (and their audiences).

  9. Brian Garst says:

    @Moosebreath:

    “And his “9-9-9 Plan,” which is being touted by his supporters, is both bad economics and a trojan horse for the kind tax system that would hurt the poor and choke the economy.”

    No, it’s great economics, but bad politics. Economically it’s a huge step in the right direction, which is away from destructive taxes on capital (and labor), and toward a broad-based consumption tax. It would be better to go all the way, but a huge improvement it remains.

    The problem is that you can’t give politicians the ability to levy both income and national sales taxes, or they’ll just end up raising them both. Because they are less destructive economically, consumption taxes are huge revenue machines, which will just feed big government as Europe has shown (VAT grows, revenues grow, debt grows…imagine that). Unless the ability to tax income is completely taken away from politicians (repeal of 16th amendment), they cannot be trusted with the ability to tax consumption at the national level.

  10. Moosebreath says:

    Brian Garst,

    “Economically it’s a huge step in the right direction, which is away from destructive taxes on capital (and labor), and toward a broad-based consumption tax. It would be better to go all the way, but a huge improvement it remains. ”

    Note that I was quoting Doug’s main post, but it seems you are advocating shifting the tax burden to lower income persons. Thanks for illustrating my comment that hurting the poor is a feature, not a bug.

  11. ponce says:

    Thanks for illustrating my comment that hurting the poor is a feature, not a bug.

    Can you really blame the rich for spending some of their cash piles on buying politicians who will lower their taxes?

  12. Nikki says:

    @Moosebreath:

    but it seems you are advocating shifting the tax burden to lower income persons.

    Since I suck at economics, would you please explain how a VAT tax is bad for lower income persons? I mean this sincerely.

  13. James Joyner says:

    I see Cain as a more impressive version of Alan Keyes. He’s a fiery speaker with a good populist appeal. And, frankly, being a black man helps at this stage, since it deflects the “racist redneck” charge. But I don’t see how he gets the nomination, I really don’t.

  14. Moosebreath says:

    Nikki,

    “Since I suck at economics, would you please explain how a VAT tax is bad for lower income persons?”

    1. A VAT (or sales tax, or any other consumption tax) only taxes that portion of a person’s income which they consume, and not the portion which they save. Since poor people spend substantially all of their income, and rich people save a significant fraction of it, poor people pay taxes on a larger share of their income than rich people do.

    2. Our tax code as a whole is slightly progressive, in that rich people (on average) pay a slightly larger percentage of their income than poor people. Every consumption tax proposal I have ever seen is flat, and therefore removes this progressivity, resulting in poor people paying more in taxes than they currently do, and rich people paying less.

  15. Stan says:

    @Nikki: Lower income people typically spend more of their income and save less of it than the affluent. So Cain’s program of higher consumption taxes and lower capital gains taxes favors the more prosperous half of the country. I could understand the economic rationale for his approach if American consumers were on a spending binge that needed to be restrained and if American companies were starved for cash and were desperate for investments. Since this is the reverse of present conditions, I view Cain’s program as class warfare, pure and simple. This seems to be part of the reason for his popularity with the Republican base. Another reason, I think, is that most Republican voters aren’t racists, and supporting Cain is a way of proving this to others.

  16. Hey Norm says:

    Hi…can I get a large pie with mushrooms, olives, eggplant, and spinach?
    Delivered…yes…the address is 1600 Pennsyvania Avenue.
    Thanx.

    [That’s the only scenario that puts Cain anywhere near the White House.]

  17. Hey Norm says:

    Cain on the occupy Wall Street protests:

    ““I don’t have facts to back this up, but I happen to believe that these demonstrations are planned and orchestrated, to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration. Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks — if you don’t have a job and you are not rich, blame yourself!”
    The interviewer followed-up: “You don’t think the banks have anything to do with the crisis that we went into in 2008?”
    “They did have something to do with the crisis that we went into in 2008. But we’re not in 2008 — we’re in 2011!” Cain replied…”

    Got that? If you are un-employed it’s your own damn fault you lazy fu**. But the GOP isn’t waging class warfare.

  18. samwide says:

    @JJ

    I see Cain as a more impressive version of Alan Keyes

    Nah. Cain isn’t nuts. Unless that’s what impresses you.

  19. samwide says:

    @Brian Garst:

    Unless the ability to tax income is completely taken away from politicians (repeal of 16th amendment),

    Do you have a realistic suggestion?

  20. Jay says:

    Cainunism [keyn – yuh – niz – uhm] – noun

    1. A theory or system of economic organization based on a wildly optimistic regard for the fiscal discipline of Congress and the President. Adherence to this theory typically requires the suspension of disbelief concerning the ability of increasing the government’s power to tax, without substantive spending cuts, to actually reduce burdens on taxpayers and to produce economic recovery.

    2. The intentional use by politicians of resonate slogans which obfuscate and distract some voters from the otherwise conspicuous absence of thoughtful, realistic or realizable fiscal or monetary plans and policies.

    Cainunist [keyn – yuh – nist] – adjective

    1. Of, characterized by, favoring or relating to Cainunism; Cainunistic

    In a sentence: “Imagining that a ‘9 – 9 – 9’ percent tax ‘plan’ would not soon be 9.9 – 9.9 – 9.9, then 19 – 19 – 19, and so on, is just more magical Cainunist thinking.”

    Origin of Cainunism: term used by informed voters to describe the economic-sounding slogans that originated from the 2012 vanity presidential campaign of Herman Cain (1945 – )

    Synonyms for Cainunism: 1. Prevarication, 2. Deception, 2. Cozen, 3. Hucksterism, 4. Hoodwink, 5. Sales Pitch, 6. Razzle Dazzle

    Antonyms for Cainunism: 1. Common Sense, 2. Objective Reality, 2. Free Market, 3. Tax Reduction, 4. Economic Liberty, 5. Less Government, 6. Constitutionalism, 7. Ron Paul

  21. Eric Florack says:

    Why is it every time a conservative leads, he’s “not serious”, a “flash in the pan”?
    Given Perry, Palin etc, there seems something of a pattern developing here in the direction of commentary, here.