- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 13, 2011


“Ninety percent of success is showing up,” Woody Allen once observed. This helps explain why Herman Cain is soaring and Rick Perry has gone as flat as the Texas plains.

Turn on a TV, and there is the former Godfather’s Pizza chief executive officer. From “Fox and Friends” to “Face the Nation” to “The Tonight Show,” the one-time chairman of the Kansas City Federal Reserve advances his message - virtually everywhere but the Weather Channel.

In the 18 days between the Sept. 22 and Oct. 11 Republican debates, Mr. Cain granted interviews to six broadcast-network programs, the Media Research Center reports, plus 18 national cable-TV news shows. Mr. Cain appeared twice on CNN, thrice on the Fox Business Network, and 11 times on the Fox News Channel. He also butted heads with an especially confrontational Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC on Oct. 6.

After Sept. 22, critics slammed Mr. Perry for letting children of illegal aliens pay in-state tuition at Texas’ state universities. A lingering controversy soon re-emerged regarding a hunting camp that Mr. Perry’s family leased years ago. Long called “Niggerhead,” Mr. Perry’s father painted over that hideous word, which polluted a rock near the entrance. Precisely when the elder Mr. Perry did so remains unclear. And just after introducing Texas’ governor on Oct. 7 to the Values Voters Summit in Washington, the Rev. Robert Jeffress, Mr. Perry’s pastor, declared that “Mormonism is a cult.” Mr. Perry has yet to repudiate that insult.

Amid these media cyclones, where was Mr. Perry? He evidently vanished into the federal Candidate Protection Program. Rather than offer his side of these breaking stories, Mr. Perry largely faded into the sagebrush. Between the two latest GOP debates, Mr. Perry did two CNBC interviews and zero network spots.

Since Ronald Reagan left Washington in 1989, Republicans have yearned for a presidential nominee who could present free-market ideas with passion, energy and commitment. They have longed for someone who would labor for limited government. And they have sunk into disappointment and simmered in rage as two generations of Bushes surrendered to their patrician instincts by ducking fights and letting the left bludgeon them until they barely had a cheek left to turn.

Herman Cain embodies the Reagan approach. He is confident, tough and combative, yet sunny, funny and buoyant. Mr. Cain permanently could demolish the Democrats’ vile, vulgar lie that the GOP is the Vatican of U.S. racism. Those who oppose President Obama are not wrong, misinformed or misguided; rather they are bigoted, Democrats too often contend. Last month, Rep. Andre Carson, Indiana Democrat, claimed that pro-Tea Party Republicans in Congress want to see blacks “hanging on a tree.”

If Republicans nominate Mr. Cain, the Democrats’ default argument against the right utterly implodes. Liberals then might have to battle conservatives on the merits.

Mr. Cain does not need to win 60 percent or even 40 percent of the black electorate. If 20 percent to 25 percent of black voters support this successful, self-made son of a maid and a chauffeur, the Democratic base dissolves and victory belongs to Mr. Cain and many down-ballot Republicans wise enough to clutch his coattails.

Also, many whites backed Mr. Obama to be a part of history, reboot black-white relations, or dry-clean their own racial linen. For such Americans, dumping Mr. Obama might be tough. But leaving Mr. Obama for a pro-growth Republican could be far easier if he happens to be black, too.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Mr. Perry increasingly resembles a candidate who was expected to electrify the 2008 primaries. Former Sen. Fred Thompson entered the GOP fray to great fanfare in September 2007. He first debated his opponents in Dearborn, Mich., the next month. Mr. Thompson took off the rest of that week and then largely avoided the spotlight. One rival campaign strategist dubbed this situation “the hunt for Fred in October.”

To the astonishment of so many of his supporters - and to Herman Cain’s growing advantage - Rick Perry evidently has spurned Ronald Reagan’s example and embraced Fred Thompson’s.

Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with Stanford’s Hoover Institution.

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