Herman Cain can hold a note, but can he capture the vote? Nope.
Fear the "fro? - Herman Cain, circa 1967
Photo: Friends of Herman Cain
"There's a lot you don't know about me." -- Pee Wee Herman from "Pee Wee's Big Adventure"
There are those who would passionately argue that the Republican base has smartly moved beyond the debacle that was John McCain's 2008 presidential bid -- were it not for the fact that it seems to have rebounded into the embrace yet another impending fiasco -- Herman Cain .
For those of us accustomed to learning from our mistakes, it's a somewhat odd, but, as far as Republicans go, not all that unlikely a turn of events. But it's still eye-popping enough to rouse the question: What are they on?
It's as if the GOP base gotten itself hooked on Cain. So deeply, in fact, that even a hard-right evangelical crackpot like Pat Robertson has been moved to add his voice to that of a right-wing spectrum of Republican Party alarmists that range from shaken neo-cons like Karl Rove, to bewildered traditional party conservatives like David Frum . It's an amalgam held together by a widening belief that if the GOP truly hopes to regain the White House in 2012, some kind of sanity-injecting intervention will have to take place within the party; and quickly.
It's a sense that increased in flourish shortly after the June announcement by the reigning master of wimpy machismo -- Mitt Romney -- that he would seek the Republican nomination for president which was followed in fairly short order by the flip-flop champ's emergence as national frontrunner. The much-despised Romney's standing in the Tea Party-controlled Republican nomination process was among a number of factors that heightened the pitch of the desperation evident in calls by Tea Partiers and other hard-right conservatives for their one-man cavalry, Texas Governor Rick Perry, to jump in the race, which he did in August.
But the Tea Party-Rick Perry relationship now seems to have been little more than a "we've howdied but we ain't shook (hands) yet" thing, which is the phrase Texans use to describe an acquaintance with whom they've never been formally introduced. For as it has turned out, in spite of all the energy expended in both imploring and paving the way for him to run, Perry, to put it charitably, has for the most part been a phlegmatic campaigner. The secession-talking, heat-packing, execution-happy Governor, who has been described as " George Bush on steroids ," has come off as something of a regurgitated Fred Thompson , a guy whose own stunningly shiftless campaign effort in 2007 resulted in a similarly awkward plunge from party savior to political afterthought within weeks of his initial announcement. In Perry's case, the lack of fervor has been most obvious during the debates, where the Texas governor often seemed a bit dozed off in the saddle.
At the point of Perry's decline , both the Tea Party faction and traditional party conservatives had already started to work in loose tandem, stepping up their outreach on what for all intents and purposes fleshed out to be an "anybody but Mitt" crusade. They now began focusing the full weight of their effort into pitching woo to the churlish Chris Christy, hoping to coax the notoriously thin-skinned New Jersey Governor into running. Both contingents -- hard-right and traditional party conservatives -- pushed, pleaded, and pushed some more against Christy until finally, the weight of the governor's own immutable opposition to challenging Obama fell on them like a ton of bricks.
A marvelous fantasy
But, the stakes seem to have been raised as a result -- in the midst of all this -- of Herman Cain's surprising ascension to national frontrunner status among the Republican candidates. Cain's position makes the GOP's 2012 presidential outlook a much more direful one since at least Romney, Perry, and Christy, it could be argued, all belong on the same court with President Obama. It has become doubtful that the same can be said about Herman Cain.
Thus, with the base's rejection of Perry's weak overtures and Christy's strong rejection of overtures from the base, the "architect" -- Rove -- along with more traditional party conservatives including Jeb Bush and Haley Barbour were faced with what probably has become a dreadful process; a general revisiting of all the pertinent elements involved in winning a campaign -- reviewing polling data ; running projections; convening focus groups; crunching numbers and so forth -- only now re-calibrated to factor in the frontrunner status of Herman Cain.
Obviously, at some point during this process, it became clear that a "Cain mutiny" is in order due to the fact that for all Cain's wit and aplomb, the GOP's unlikely frontrunner is ill-suited to be the Party's 2012 standard-bearer, period. Particularly, if the idea is to package him as an example that the GOP "gets" the supposition about a "post-racial" America now willing to elect an African-American president regardless of party affiliation. Clearly more political entertainer than knowledgeable statesman, Cain would be unable to hold ground as the GOP's formidable African-American answer to President Barack Obama. To fill that role, the Party perhaps needs to look in the direction of Colin Powell.
But that's another story. As for Cain, there's an obvious and completely understandable air of doubt about his ability to inspire a broad section of the American electorate into voting Republican the way candidate Obama did for the Democrats. Many observers realize that like Obama, Cain can be witty and even charismatic. But many also share a wholehearted awareness of the fact that the similarities between the two pretty much end there. Unlike the cerebral Obama, Cain is an accomplished brain fartist blessed with an insight on self-promotion that would do P.T. Barnum himself proud. It's that skillfulness at self-promotion in fact, which is largely responsible for Cain's rise to frontrunner status.