Following allegations that he had cheated on his wife for thirteen years, and some gaffes which demonstrated a shocking lack of knowledge about foreign policy, Herman Cain is reassessing his presidential campaign. The latest surveys had him in third place with a consistent 13-17 percent, and he had even led in the polls for a month or so. Now that his presidential campaign may soon be over, it seems appropriate to ask the question: What exactly was his appeal to Republican primary voters?
A few months ago, before Cain topped the polls, Scott Adams made the case for Republicans picking Herman Cain, operating under the assumption that President Obama is heavily favored to win re-election next year.
1. It’s better in the long-term for the party to lose with a black guy than to lose with a rich white guy.
2. If circumstances favored Republicans, Herman Cain might still win.
Herman Cain’s race was a factor in his appeal, with some Republicans thinking that Obama benefited by playing the race card. So for those guys, Cain was a way to counter that.
But a lot of the tea party types like the idea of political outsiders getting elected to major offices. That resulted in some really lousy nominees for statewide office (Carl Paladino, Christine O’Donnell, Joe Miller, Dan Maes, Linda McMahon), a few strong nominees (Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan, Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Representative Bob Turner of NY’s 9th Congressional District) and some lousy candidates who ended up winning (Governor Rick Scott of Florida, the tea party congressman who owes a lot of child support.)
Herman Cain thus appeals to two different types of conservative cynics, although there is probably some overlap within the groups. He was also effective at simplifying political quandries. You wouldn’t need to to do a lot of editing to make his responses in the primaries into a Children’s book about “Why Daddy’s a Republican.” So I think he had an innate appeal to less-educated or less-intelligent voters, including the quarter of Americans with an IQ below 90. And then there were voters who liked his plans for tax reform.
If given the Republican nomination, I think Cain had a good chance of being a really horrible President, assuming that he had managed to avoid the mistakes that doomed him in the primary. In a tough economy, he would be an accomplished businessman with an eclectic civil service resume (US Navy ballistics analyst, former chairman of the Kansas City Federal Reserve). That might have been enough to impress voters, even though he lacks an understanding of foreign policy and how government works- two of the most important things for a potential President to know.
The same circumstances that led to businessman Ron Johnson beating Russ Feingold in Wisconsin could have resulted in President Herman Cain. And then President Hillary Clinton/ Andrew Cuomo/ John Hickenlooper/ Elizabeth Warren/ Al Franken four years later.