In the last two months, Herman Cain has seen a meteoric rise in the polls. The latest from RCP says that he has a +0.7% spread nationally, and he also leads in Iowa and South Carolina. I also wrote that he was a popular figure on Fox News and Fox Business Channel, two organizations that have heavily espoused Cain's "9-9-9" plan.
Then it's clear, isn't it? The main problem with Cain's initial candidacy is the fact that no one knew who he was. But he came up with a catchy slogan, something that is easy to state and explain and, whats more, easy to convince people that the solution to a problem can be as simple as all that. On top of that, two media outlets have carried water for Cain because they feel that a black conservative is the only way to defeat a black liberal.
The problems with 9-9-9 have been documented and discussed at length. The first problem is that it probably won't raise enough money to support the government and it's current obligations (something that I don't think that conservatives don't consider to be a problem.) The second problem is perhaps easier for everyone to grasp: the taxes on the lower and middle classes will increase, shifting more of a burden on the people that can afford it the least.
When pressed on this, Cain simply responds that whoever came up with that figure (in some areas, the 999 plan would increase taxes to 17%, when compounded with state and local taxes) didn't do the math right. When told that they did do the math right, he responds that they couldn't have because the purpose of his tax plan is to simplify the tax code. I have yet to see a journalist that held their own in the conversation, perhaps with the exception of David Gregory of Meet The Press.
If you asked me two months ago, as I was writing the profile on Herman Cain, whether or not I felt that he would be where he is now, I would have said that anything is possible but that it didn't seem likely. Naturally, things in a campaign are fluid and can change for arbitrary reasons.
I don't know if the momentum that Cain has attained is sustainable, but he's in a better place now than Bachmann was when she won the Ames Straw Poll. It's better to be towards the head of the pack now than three months ago.
It's important, though, to recognize that Romney hasn't gone anywhere. He has remained in the top three, with other candidates taking the top spot at various points (Bachmann, Perry and now Cain). It seems likely, at this point (bearing in mind what I just said about campaigns in general) that Romney is going to remain in the nomination fight for the long-haul. Whether Cain can hold on to this lead remains to be seen.
When I wrote the profile, I included this tidbit about Cain:
He's vocal that he wouldn't nominate a Muslim to his cabinet, he's said that Sharia law is trying to take over the country and that he's supportive of communities that want to ostracize Muslims and prevent the construct of mosques anywhere. As these links demonstrate, it's not just that he's wrong, but that he's gone back and said that he didn't say these things. Which makes him a liar and an opportunist.
I think that statement remains true to this day. While he's playing to his strength (economy) and should stay on that track, his positions on social issues are going to fall under scrutiny. With that in mind, it seems unlikely.
But, then again, anything can happen.
Now I'm hungry... I can't imagine why...
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