- The Washington Times - Friday, May 13, 2011

With the 2012 elections on the horizon, many conservatives are uneasy about the lack of an obvious front-runner for the job of denying President Obama a second term. While the GOP field lacks clarity, it does provide a platform for new talent to stand out and wow the party faithful. According to a Zogby poll released Tuesday, Herman Cain is getting that attention. Though a relative unknown, Mr. Cain jumped to second place among surveyed primary voters.

Like Mitt Romney and Donald Trump, Mr. Cain brings a background of private-sector success that contrasts sharply with the weak resume of our current commander in chief. Prior to his election, Mr. Obama’s signature achievement off the public dole was to serve as a “community organizer” - whatever that means. On the other hand, one of Mr. Cain’s early assignments in business was to manage 450 of the lowest performing-Burger King locations in the Philadelphia region. Within three years, those stores were among the chain’s top performers. He then turned his attention to rescuing a near-bankrupt Godfather’s Pizza. After restoring its profitability, Mr. Cain bought the company.

Such stories resonate with a country desperate to find a leader capable of restoring national prosperity. Perhaps that’s why Mr. Cain received such high marks in the May 5 GOP presidential debate. Most of the crowd knew nothing beforehand about Mr. Cain, but a Fox News focus group overwhelmingly approved of what it heard, especially on the topic that matters most: the economy. “One of the biggest problems we have with this country right now is too much government intervention trying to tell businesses how to do what they do best - which is create jobs,” Mr. Cain said in the debate. “Government doesn’t create jobs, business creates jobs. We need to get government out of the way.”

It’s the exact opposite of the Washington-centered ideology of liberals like Mr. Obama. Despite blowing more than a trillion dollars on “stimulus,” there has been no measurably positive impact on the unemployment rate. The Federal Reserve under Mr. Obama has also torpedoed the value of the dollar through “quantitative easing,” and the promised levels of economic growth have not materialized. As a former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Mr. Cain would surely clobber our Keynesian president in any debate touching on monetary policy.

Mr. Cain is no slouch on social issues, either. Speaking at the Heritage Foundation earlier this year, he blasted Planned Parenthood as “planned genocide,” citing the intention of the abortion group’s founder to “kill black babies before they came into the world.” That’s the kind of direct, honest statement that stands apart from the vague, poll-tested replies professional politicians craft to avoid saying something that could possibly offend someone.

Since Mr. Cain has never won a political campaign, it remains to be seen whether he has what it takes to surpass his rivals and secure the nomination once the race picks up. Even if he fails to make it to the final round, his participation in the process highlights the underappreciated depth of the Republican bench and the amateurishness of the current Oval Office occupant.