Herman Cain emerged as the victor in the Florida Republican straw poll on Saturday, startling many voters and pundits alike. The consensus of the media seems to be that the battle for the Republican nomination is exclusively between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry; however, Cain has been running a steady campaign that slowly seems to be picking up steam. What is particularly impressive about the Cain campaign is that while his fund raising has been characterized as anemic up to this point, and his infrastructure skeletal at best, he has continued to gain momentum among voters with every appearance. Cain’s win in the Florida straw poll may also change those characterizations. A spokesperson for the Cain camp says that in the two days following the debate they have added several thousand new donors and raised more money than in the entire campaign season thus far.
The win in Florida was mitigated by several other factors. Mitt Romney, who placed third in the polls, declined to participate. Michele Bachmann and Gary Johnson also bowed out of the polls. Front runner Rick Perry has been struggling with poor debate showings and lingering discomfort among many conservatives regarding his support for the Texas Dream Act for illegal aliens.
However, all those factors don’t give a complete picture of why the Cain campaign continues to gain amazing momentum. Herman Cain looked like an impossible candidate from the beginning. A former pizza company CEO and radio host, Cain has never held public office. He was virtually ignored by the mainstream media until very recently, being brushed aside as an “un-serious” candidate next to the specter of professional politicians such as Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. He has also faced biting and demeaning racist opposition from the likes of media personalities such as Janeane Garofalo and Keith Olberman, who claim Cain is simply an “Uncle Tom, Stockholm Syndrome-suffering” candidate to make the tea party feel better about their inherent racism. He’s been lampooned by comedians and writers as “the pizza guy”. Even for many conservatives, Herman Cain was more of a dream nominee than a viable choice. The road to the nomination did not seem destined to lead very far for Cain. However, the very issues that make Cain a questionable candidate also seem to be working in his favor. In light of the political explosion of the anti-establishment tea party, a man with no real ties to the Washington culture seems very attractive. Here is a candidate who hasn’t yet been sullied by the culture of corruption that has been accepted for far too long as the business of the day in our capital. He has not been surrounded by the machine of government so long that he has forfeited his own real-world logic and reasoning. Politicians promising the world have been the order of the day in America for a very long time. When we finally woke up as an electorate and looked at the books, we realized they have been grossly irresponsible with their time, our money, and the futures of our children. Voters are becoming leery of lifetime politicians and Cain represents the antithesis of those figures. Additionally, in the most economically stressful time in generations, Cain brings a business mind to the spending issues in Washington, and many put-upon tax payers find that invigorating. In an era in which politicians carefully poll every syllable, Herman Cain seems to provide a refreshing candor, often times speaking to large crowds as though they were guests at his kitchen table at home. Cain talks like a common man, but has the pedigree and experience of a leader, another quality that seems to add to his magnetism. He also has the backing of many tea partiers, and there can be no question that tea party influence is becoming huge force in the political sphere.
Cain has been recording stronger and stronger showings in each debate. Although the general consensus is that he is weak on foreign policy, most Cain supporters seem to feel comfortable with that. Our foreign affairs are extremely important to national security, but foremost on the minds of most Americans is the state of our economy (which Cain is strong on) and any President can surround himself with knowledgeable advisers who can help him skillfully navigate the waters of international diplomacy. Add to that the obvious fact that Cain has been doing his homework between each debate and the issue of his foreign policy inexperience seems to become more and more of a non-issue.
Until this point, Cain has polled well among conservative voters, but not well enough to emerge as a leader. It is quite common to hear potential voters say they like Cain, but don’t think he can win. That sentiment bears out in Cain’s previous fundraising totals. However, after a weekend like this past in Florida, all that is changing…and it begs the question: why can’t Herman Cain win? Perhaps it is not just the politicians who have become jaded and corrupt. Even in our own minds as voters we seem resigned to accept the establishment candidate will simply be thrust upon us. But if every person who admits they like Cain as a nominee actually voted for Cain in the primaries, could he pull off the ultimate upset? As we draw closer to primary voting, perhaps it is time to start questioning our own values and responsibilities as voters. Are we capitulating to the media’s pick, simply because its easier and “better than Barry”, or are we willing to think outside of the Beltway Box and put our votes where our mouths (and hearts) are? Only time will tell, and there is a lot more debating and political theater to endure before then. One thing is for sure: the Cain Train is rolling and picking up steam. How many Americans get their ticket for the ride remains to be seen.