Six months ago, few people thought Herman Cain had a shot at the Republican presidential nomination.
For one thing, Cain would be a troubling candidate for the party chiefs in that it’s doubtful that they would have any measure of influence over him on an issue once he made his mind up. Cain is a businessman with a forceful personality, an individual with leadership skills that are top-notch. He has solid conservative credentials. In fact, there has been only one knock on Cain.
A conservative African American, he has been viewed by pundits and party leaders as an unelectable novelty.
That image, however, changed with his win in the Florida straw poll last month, something that shocked politicians and pundits alike. Recent polls give Cain reason for optimism. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is essentially in his fifth year of running for president, is being preferred by 25 percent of likely GOP voters these days. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who may be this year’s Fred Thompson, came in late as the conservative champion, but his numbers have slipped ever since. The latest polls have him at about 16 percent with GOP voters, essentially tied with — you guessed it — Herman Cain.
Meanwhile, the GOP search for candidates with star quality that might rival President Obama’s has gone dismally. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin made it official. She’s not running. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has also decided to sit this one out. Michelle Bachman’s star is fading. Ron Paul’s not getting more traction so far.
Romney and Perry are the best at generating campaign money, but conservative Republicans don’t like Romney’s credentials and Perry has proven to be an inept debater, something that could cost him independent voters in debates with Obama.
The result has been an undercurrent of energy going toward Cain as potential GOP voters who may have discounted him earlier give him a serious look, perhaps for the first time. The Atlanta businessman who headed up a successful pizza franchise is conservative, an able debater and personable. The question may change from “why Cain?” to “why not Cain?”
With the early party presidential preference primaries about three months away, it’s difficult to believe that a new candidate could hop into the GOP race, piece together campaign organizations in every state and mount a credible challenge. It’s most likely that the Republican nominee is already running.
And while Romney may still be the favorite and Perry could stop shooting himself in the foot, it may be that the really smart money is being placed on a longshot — Herman Cain.