When we first met Herman Cain, he presented himself as the lovable GOP candidate. He showed party solidarity by calling himself proof that the Tea Party wasn't racist. But Cain has lately been positioning himself as, to use the much-overused word for politicians, something of a maverick. In the confusing build-up to the GOP 2012 nomination, most Republican candidates have been guarded about speaking up about each other. Of course, there are ongoing feuds in the candidate pool, but many pull their punches, because at this point, there is no clear favorite, and no one knows who might need a running mate at the end of the day. Now enter Cain, who over the last few days has been more than happy to candidly denounce the other big names in the party.
Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty are Panderers. Cain, an associate minister at Antioch Baptist Church, has led many a prayer in his life. Perhaps that's why he believes he knows the real thing when he sees it, and when it's a campaign ploy. During an interview yesterday, when Cain heard that Michele Bachmann highlighted her remarks at the Faith And Family Conference with a prayer, he denounced her to the interviewer, saying, "Well, that sounds like the ultimate pander." Tim Pawlenty also recited a verse during his speech Friday night; we'd assume Cain feels the same about him.
Rick Santorum is a Disgrace to Reagan. Last month, Rick Santorum challenged Cain's electoral viability. "He's never won an election," Santorum said, according to Politico. "And it's not that he hasn't tried. He's run twice and lost." Cain's camp fired back with this, in hindsight, remarkably hypocritical response: "We are disappointed to see Senator Santorum violating President Ronald Reagan's 'Eleventh Commandment:' 'Thou shalt not speak ill of fellow Republicans,'" his spokeswoman said in a statement. "As conservatives, our mission should be to beat President Obama in 2012, not beat each other up in the process. We are certain that President Ronald Reagan would be proud of the man that Herman Cain is and the class act he remains."
Mitt Romney is Pro-Establishment. On "The Week" with Christiane Amanpour yesterday, Cain said the American people are "working off of the traditional model of great name ID before you start out, whole lot of money, and you’ve held public office before." But he argued that he was "just the reverse,” which would work in this election because "what’s happening is the American people aren’t looking at it from the traditional model standpoint.” Republican adviser Joe McKinnon added, “People are looking for non-traditional, anti-establishment candidate. And that’s not Mitt Romney.” Cain has personally juxtaposed the wealthy Romney with himself before. “I cannot compete with a Romney when it comes to money," Cain told Politico last month. "He has at his disposal his own personal fortune [but] I have the advantage of a grassroots network.”
Sarah Palin is Not a Contender. In the same interview with Amanpour, Cain was asked if he thought Sarah Palin would enter the presidential race. While he said he was uncertain, he also added this: “But if I had to guess, I would say ‘no.’"
Donald Trump was Born with a Silver Spoon. Many members of the GOP were hesitant to say derisive comments about Trump, whether or not they believed anything he said, or whether or not he was running, on account of his brief surge of popularity in the polls. Even recently, since Trump's been out of the race, Sarah Palin has suggested Trump as an independent. But no empty praise from Cain. He not only takes his prayer seriously, he takes his pizza seriously, being a former pizza magnate. And during an interview yesterday, when he was asked about Trump's pizza date with Sarah Palin (where Trump infamously ate with a fork), Cain quipped, "“If you’re born with a silver spoon in your mouth, maybe you believe you’re supposed to eat pizza with a knife and a fork!” Cain also noted that, as someone born without a silver spoon, “I had to learn to eat with my hands.”
Everyone Else is Unlikely to Win. Cain got the keynote slot at the FFC conference Friday and Saturday, even though nearly every other GOP presidential hopeful spoke as well. And he had plenty of swagger and optimism for his own campaign. “We will put a conservative in the White House, and I’ve got a good feeling his name is going to be Herman Cain,” he said, getting a standing ovation, according to Politico.
The interesting thing is, Cain's bravado and open speech may seem unwise, but it appears to be working so far. The New York Times reports that a Gallup poll of last week showed Cain with the highest voter intensity score of any GOP presidential contender, even higher than Palin or Romney. Many pundits and voters declared him the winner of the first Republican debate last month, and he won the straw polls at the Tea Party Patriots convention in February and the Conservative Values Conference in Iowa in March. The other candidates are no doubt starting to take him seriously, not least for his fearless assessments of them.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.