Cain Surges, Romney Rebounds, Perry Struggles

In the September 22 Fox News Republican presidential debate, Texas governor and putative front-runner Rick Perry harmed himself among conservatives with his stand on illegal immigration and with a flat performance.

Meanwhile former Godfather’s Pizza chain CEO Herman Cain won the September 24 Florida straw poll by a huge margin after a strong debate performance. Cain took a whopping 37% of the vote, while Perry took 15% and Romney took 14%, showing Republican discontent with both Perry and Romney.

“Folks, this is what you call momentum,” Cain said.

Wow. Kaboom… This debate and poll could change the race substantially. And just imagine what a Cain candidacy would do to put the lie to the notion that Republicans, conservatives and Tea Partiers are all racists…

Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia.org about Cain:

Herman Cain (born December 13, 1945) is an American businessman, politician, columnist, and radio host from Georgia. He is the former chairman and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza and a former deputy chairman (1992–94) and chairman (1995–96) of the board of directors to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Before his business and economics career he worked as a mathematician in ballistics for the United States Navy.  Cain’s newspaper column is distributed by North Star Writers Group. He lives in the Atlanta suburbs, where he also serves as a minister at Antioch Baptist Church North.

The Fox debate also highlighted the rising strength of conservative ideology in what is expected to be a conservative ascendancy post-Obama. After listening to Obama’s muddled speeches, contradictions and obfuscations, the Republican field offered a barrage of bedrock conservative prescriptions for fixing our nation.

Cain was particularly strong. He even went so far as to say something that would have been seen as heresy five years ago – that if he were to have the power to eliminate one federal agency that he would eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency as an out-of-control bureaucracy that is micro-managing our economy into oblivion.

This is the type of hard-hitting, unapologetic conservatism that is sweeping the country today as many Americans come to realize how 50 years of Big Government socialism have severely over-regulated our economy, killed jobs and prosperity and undermined the freedom that our Founders wished to guarantee us. And perhaps that is why Cain dominated the straw poll.

When Perry’s opponents questioned him over support for in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants, Perry reiterated his support for the plan:

“I don’t think you have a heart,” Perry said. “If you say that we should not educate children who come into our state for no other reason than that they’ve been brought their through no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart. We need to be educating these children because they will become a drag on our society. I think that’s what Texans wanted to do. Out of 181 members of the Texas legislature when this issue came up [there were] only four dissenting votes. This was a state issue. Texas voted on it. And I still support it today.”

This sounds like Bush’s ‘compassionate conservatism’ of 2000 and conservatives are alarmed by Perry’s liberal language about having “a heart”. Mitt Romney hammered Perry on the issue, saying that “a discount” for illegals (the lower in-state tuition) is too much to be giving away to people who are not even American citizens yet who already are getting many government benefits.

This is going to be a major issue for Perry. Less than 24 hours after the debate, the conservative blogosphere and media were alight with criticisms of Perry.

Meanwhile the stature of former front-runner Romney rose. Most viewers considered Romney the debate winner as he demonstrated the kind of sustained, sharp and flawless debating skills that can knock Obama down. Romney looked good and sounded confident, and that is crucial in debates. But Cain debated well too, and has great confidence. And his straw poll win is surprising and will spur GOP primary voters to reconsider the field, and will give Cain added muscle.

Imagine a 2012 presidential race between a “real” American black man like Cain, and half-white/half-African Obama who has not a drop of “slave blood” in his body?  What would this do to the black vote?


Romney and Cain both looked strong. And appearances count. In the 1960 debate between Republican Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy, those who listened on radio said that Nixon had won, but Kennedy was more photogenic and thus was declared the winner by television viewers.

In such debates, candidates can harm themselves with a bland performance or with one misplaced word or phrase. After Ronald Reagan’s mediocre second debate in 1984, the media portrayed it as the sure sign that Reagan was too old to be re-elected.

He was 73 at the time, but bounced back in the third debate, capping it off with his famously comic quip about Walter Mondale’s age – “I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” When even Mondale laughed along with millions of viewers nationwide, many pundits declared the race over.

In the Fox debate, Perry backpedaled on his criticisms of Social Security, supporting SS strongly after declaring it unconstitutional in his book, Fed Up. Meanwhile Perry said that Romney had deleted a damning sentence on government-run health care in a new printing of his book. RomneyCare in Massachusetts is Romney’s principal liberal political albatross.

With presidential primaries beginning in February, Romney has a vastly stronger organization in first-in-the-nation New Hampshire than either Perry or Cain. Thus New Hampshire is expected to go for Romney, while a good showing by Perry or Cain or any other candidate will make a big dent in Romney’s hopes for the nomination.

Romney’s New Hampshire strength is a result of two things: First, New Hampshire is next door to Massachusetts where Romney was governor from 2003 to 2007 and so Romney is well known in the Granite State through the nearby Boston media. Second, Romney was a presidential candidate in 2008 and his substantial New Hampshire organization has laid over since then.

Largely gone from the Florida debate was the equivocating McCain model. There was little hesitation as emboldened Republicans stated their principles. And for good reason. After seeing Republican Scott Brown win the ‘Ted Kennedy US senate seat’ in Massachusetts by stating his unequivocal opposition to ObamaCare, Republicans are becoming more brave.

And with the November 2010 electoral landslide for Republicans, and the recent taking of an ultra-liberal Democrat congressional district in New York City by a conservative Republican, the GOP is feeling energized at the increasing weakness of Obama on everything from Israel to the economy.

This is the type of boldness that we conservatives have been pleading for since Ronald Reagan left office and which Cain reflected. Meanwhile numerous mentions of the Constitution in the debate shows a renewed focus on our founding documents, a big lift for conservatives.

But we should not allow one debate and straw poll to take on too much significance. The GOP favorites at this same point 14 months before the 2008 presidential election were former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Tennessee US senator Fred Thompson. But McCain ended up being the nominee. So as the old saying goes, this primary race ain’t over ‘till it’s over.

Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, who barely shows up in polls, called for a whopping 43% cut in federal spending. That his proposal includes the military certainly makes it unpalatable to conservative primary voters who see our armed forces as one of the few key roles and expenses for the federal government

Perhaps the most poignant factor in the debates is the low status of former House speaker Newt Gingrich. Newt has been a beacon of hope and a fount of ideas for our conservative movement for almost 20 years, and his poor showing in recent polls is a sad thing for us all. Newt is obviously the best-informed candidate on “our” issues and could debate Obama under a table.

Thus perhaps we should count our blessings for having him on our side, and see him as more Samuel Adams – a theorist and ideologue – than as a president. But then again, it ain’t over ‘till it’s over.  If other candidates slip, Newt could gain.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is a great debater and much smarter than Obama any day of the week although her stature appears to be shrinking after a surge with her Iowa straw poll victory. She repeated her amazing personal story – that she has five biological children and that she and her husband have raised 23 foster children. God bless Michele!

Texas congressman Ron Paul has some good conservative ideas, but has a fringe reputation after his support for drug legalization. Former governor Huntsman of Utah is a solid candidate with good skills and ideas, but does not seem to have much traction.

So indeed the Fox debate and the Florida poll have changed things a lot – for the time being. And good for Fox for running a decent debate without making it an attack on the GOP as recent NBC and CNN debates were. Moderators Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier and Chris Wallace were upbeat and “fair and balanced”.

Meanwhile the Republican audience at the debate certainly gave extra punch to the proceedings.

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