- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 18, 2011


A ll over the country, I have had numerous people tell me over the past several months that if they could pick anyone out of the Re publican field to be president, it would be Herman Cain. Then they follow it up with this caveat: “But since he can’t win, I’m going with” so-and-so. (Insert the name of any other Republican here.)

Daniel Henninger wrote about similar observations in the Sept. 29 edition of the Wall Street Journal: “You hear the same thing said about Herman Cain all the time: Herman Cain has some really interesting ideas, but… .

“I love Herman Cain, but… .

“But what?

“But he can’t win.

“Why not?

“At best, the answer has to do with that cloudy word ‘electability.’ Or that Mr. Cain has never held elected political office,” Mr. Henninger writes.

But something happened in September that changed everything. After the Republican candidates debate in Orlando, Fla., in which many saw Mr. Cain as the winner, and the Florida straw poll that followed, which Mr. Cain won, people across the nation started seeing for the first time that their first choice to be president really had a chance of winning - a possibility the Republican base hasn’t seen for a long, long time.

By Sept. 27, Zogby released a poll showing Mr. Cain with a strong lead over the rest of the field. I pointed this out to several Washington insiders, who immediately dismissed it and said Zogby’s polls can’t be trusted. I pointed out to them that their opinion of Zogby was irrelevant because it was posted on the Drudge Report, and all over the country, people would be realizing that Mr. Cain could win. I predicted to the naysayers at that time that Mr. Cain would come up in the other polls and soon could be out in front. The past two weeks have validated that analysis.

The Washington establishment never gave Herman Cain a chance, mainly, I am told, because of his lack of “political experience.” But a lack of political experience is only a liability to the political class; to the rest of America, it’s an advantage. It is interesting that the political establishment doesn’t realize how ugly the stain of being a political insider is to the majority of voters.

This makes for an interesting juxtaposition: What is likely Mr. Cain’s biggest advantage with conservative voters - that he comes from outside the establishment - is viewed by the establishment as his biggest weakness. He speaks American. He doesn’t speak in the measured tones of the political class, and that is another thing that makes him attractive to the conservative base. Perhaps conservatives thought it was too good to be true that one of their own could be elected president, hence the feeling that victory for their first choice was out of reach.

A Rasmussen Reports poll conducted in mid-October shows Mr. Cain leading President Obama 43 percent to 41 percent, and thus removing another of the Republican establishment’s ostensible opposition to Mr. Cain that “we need someone who can beat Obama.”

But now, the recognition that Mr. Cain can win is likely to cause an explosion of participatory enthusiasm among the conservative wing of the GOP - the grass-roots activists who do the work even after they are told they must settle for the candidate the establishment selects.

What is important for Mr. Cain to remember is that part of his support is predicated on conservatives believing he won’t abandon his convictions if he makes it to the general election. At this point, the biggest mistake Mr. Cain could make would be to let Washington insider election technocrats convince him he needs to moderate his views in order to get elected. He should be very aggressive in defending what the mainstream of Americans believe and ignore the warnings that being authentically conservative will “drive independents away,” which is what the liberal media establishment always threatens and the Republican establishment always fears.

What the mainstream GOP should fear most is that if it tries to force its approved candidate on the base, a split may form in the Republican Party that never heals.

Scott Wheeler is a former television producer and author of “Shadow Government: What Obama Doesn’t Want You to Know About His Czars” (Capitol Media Group, 2010). He also is founder of the National Republican Trust PAC.

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