Atlanta businessman Herman Cain gave another strong performance at the Bloomberg/Washington Post presidential debate in New Hampshire on Tuesday, finally taking over some spotlight left by former front runner Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Unlike the previous debates, Cain, the only candidate who has never held an elected office, was placed front and center between the former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Gov. Perry. The topic of this debate was solely the economy and issues related to it, such as the tax code, Federal Reserve, and the financial system.
Cain climbed in the polls since the last debate in Florida where he won the straw poll and where Perry performed so badly, he fell from the number one spot to distant third, behind Romney and Cain.
While in all the other debates Cain had to force himself into the conversation, this time Cain was part of just about every issue taken up by the moderators and candidates. His new front runner – runner up status has certainly contributed to the attention, but most significantly, Cain had to defend his economic plan 9-9-9 pretty much throughout the debate.
The other candidates attacked 9-9-9 as a plan that is not realistic because in the toxic atmosphere in Washington it would never pass. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum pointed to the plan as a proof that Cain, without any political experience, is just too naïve to understand how the political system works and that the 9-9-9 could never become reality.
Santorum asked the audience at some point how many would like to pay 9% in sales tax in the state where there is no sales tax – no hands went up.
But Cain did a good job of defending his economic outline. He said that pivoting off of the current tax system is not going to grow the economy. Cain pointed out that all of the other candidates are politicians and therefore they think in terms of what’s politically convenient, instead of reaching for bold ideas that could bring a meaningful change to the economy. He said his plan would pass because the American people would understand it and get behind it.
There are still some who believe Cain is just a flavor of the month, someone who jumped in to the race like Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann or Perry to a great applause but upon a closer look they quickly lost their star power. Certainly, FOX News personality Bill O’Reilly is one of those critics who maintain Cain stands no chance of winning the presidency.
But Cain does very well in the debates, he does very well in his campaign speeches, and he does well in interviews – most of the time. On top of that, according to the latest Gallup poll released October 4, Cain’s name recognition is still just 55 percent; much lower than the 80 percent range all the other top candidates are enjoying.
This means that while Romney, who also ran in 2008 for the GOP nomination, has probably reached his plateau after campaigning for about five years, Cain might still see his numbers climb once more voters get to know him. In the same poll, Cain’s positive intensity score of 30 points leaves all his challengers in the dust.
Cain has also recently shown another quality that is quite important in a presidential candidate, especially one taking on President Obama with a very passionate and determined base, which seems to also include some in the main stream media. Cain appears to have a very thick skin.
Cain, who is the only African-American candidate in the GOP field, was recently attacked by some black entertainers who called him stupid, uneducated, and bad for the black community. Of course Cain has an undergraduate degree in Mathematics and a Masters in computer science.
Cain was also recently lectured by MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, a white man, on how to be a proper black man in America, past and present. Cain remained unflappable, he showed no anger or emotion when attacked, and answered with poise and respect even when none was given to him.
Of course Cain’s candidacy is not without its problems. Cain has never run this kind of a national campaign and often when he’s asked a question in the media, his answers add up to a perfect sound bite for the opposition.
Cain said a while ago that he would not hire a Muslim to work in his administration out of fear that the Sharia law would trump the Constitutional law for a follower of Islam. He later apologized for the remarks.
More recently, when he was questioned about the Occupy Wall Street movement, Cain said that if you don’t have a job and are not wealthy you shouldn’t blame Wall Street or the Government but yourself. There are at least 14 million Americans today who are unemployed and over 40 million who are on food stamps.
If Cain wins the GOP nomination, we will most certainly see the clips of those statements in President Obama’s campaign ads.