Cain's Song Raises the Bar: How About a Talent Portion at the GOP Debates?

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Having heard the gospel from Herman, we can only imagine what other talents the Republican contenders could show off

On Monday at around 2:00pm, my Twitter stream started going crazy. Something had happened at Herman Cain's National Press Club talk. He suddenly began to sing. This isn't the sort of thing that you usually see from candidates who hope to become the leader of the free world. They stick to tight talking points, dodge tough questions, keep their cool, and do their best to seem very serious. But above all, they need to appear as not crazy as possible.

Some candidates, like Mitt Romney, appear to have mastered this art. Even when fellow candidate Rick Perry was coming at him in a recent debate with accusations of hiring illegal immigrants, Romney calmly responded. Instead of reacting too angrily, Romney placed his hand on Perry's shoulder to calm him down, which seemed infuriate Perry even more. If anyone came off having lost their cool, it was Perry.

But up to now, no candidate has done anything so out-of-the-ordinary as breaking out in song at the end of a combative press appearance at the press club before more cameras than even the most experienced reporters could remember. Are Herman Cain's antics too much for Republican voters, or will they endear Cain to his Tea Party base? Time will tell. For all we know, people might love it. The move certainly took some attention off the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around him, or at least lightened the mood. And we Americans do love singers.

But maybe singing, dancing, and other random talents are exactly what the seemingly predictable GOP race needs. The debates all seem to boil down to mostly the same well-understood talking points by now. We've heard enough of that -- it's time for them all to do something a little different. So taking a cue from Cain, we'd like to suggest it's time for the Republican presidential debates to add a talent competition, beauty pageant-style.

After all, as much as we like to pretend otherwise, American elections are often just glorified beauty contests. Both appearance and likeability matter. Americans want to feel like their president can relate to them and looks presidential. A talent competition could add to voters' understanding of how well-rounded candidates are. In the gallery above, I imagine some possible talent acts for the eight most prominent Republican candidates.

And how might President Obama respond in the final debates? Which talent would he showcase when he takes on whichever Republican candidate wins the nomination? Let's hope he's got something in his pocket a little more impressive than bodysurfing.

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Daniel Indiviglio was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 through 2011. He is now the Washington, D.C.-based columnist for Reuters Breakingviews. He is also a 2011 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow through the Phillips Foundation. More

Indiviglio has also written for Forbes. Prior to becoming a journalist, he spent several years working as an investment banker and a consultant.
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