Herman Cain won the Florida straw poll this weekend. He now has everyone scrambling to deny the obvious: he is the front-runner now.
How important is the Florida straw poll?
The previous three winners have all won the Republican nomination for President. They were Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush (“the Elder”), and Bob Dole. Florida’s Republicans have not run a straw poll since.
Herman Cain won that straw poll handily, with 37 percent of the vote. Rick Perry and Mitt Romney came in second and third, with 15 and 14 percent each. Rick Santorum and Ron Paul finished after them, with 11 and 10.5 percent, respectively. Michele Bachmann came in dead last with 1 percent. (See also this article in The Washington Post).
Afterwards, the candidate said this:
Thank you to the Republican voters for this incredible honor of being named the winner of the Presidency 5 straw poll in Florida today.
Before the straw poll took place, Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) pointed to the three previous winners. On that basis, he said that whoever wins the straw poll would take the nomination and the Presidency. But after Herman Cain shocked everyone with his win, Scott backtracked. He said only that Cain’s win showed how “competitive” the primary race was.
Why the sudden change?
Rick Scott is trying to damn Herman Cain with faint praise for his results. He cannot say that with any justice. To win 37 percent of the vote against seven competitors is amazing in itself. It is doubly amazing because his two closest competitors had been the acknowledged front-runners. Cain might possibly have done better than this, by winning with fifty percent of the vote. Still, he outclassed the two strongest candidates by a margin of better than two-and-a-half to one.
Governor Scott can have only one motive. He wants one of those two front-runners to win—probably Rick Perry, a fellow Southerner. Herman Cain now has him in an embarrassing position: by Scott’s own words, Cain can win it all. (Donald Trump knows this. According to Politico, Trump now wants Cain to join him for dinner.)
Did Herman Cain win a protest vote?
Cain himself denies this. He told NBC-TV that straw-poll delegates responded to his message. That might be correct, but they also responded to his natural charm. He does not force that charm out of himself—nor on anyone else. As is true in many fields of endeavor: it’s not only what he says, but the way he says it, that attracts so many people.
He has said too often to count that his lack of political experience is a selling point. He is a career businessman, not a career politician. That very thing will attract Tea Party voters, as several of them have told your editor in passing.
Cain did some “protesting” of his own after the results came in. Actor Morgan Freeman said that the Tea Party had an entirely racial motive: to displace the man now holding office as President for no other reason than the color of his skin. Herman Cain said flatly that Freeman couldn’t know what he’s talking about—because he has never attended a Tea Party event. (Your editor has. Event organizers never let anyone say racist things. Events are open to men and women of all races and ages.)
Cain also presaged how he might deal with Congress. At last report, the Senate is still arguing over funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. Herman Cain’s reply:
They want to play politics with human beings. I would blame both parties. There’s plenty of money in Washington, D.C. to offset anything that we need to spend on FEMA. I would make sure that FEMA got the money that it needed, and if I have to go find the offsets later, find it later.
How would Herman Cain raise the money?
Cain has made much of what he calls the “9-9-9 Plan.” That stands for ordinary-income, capital-gains, and national sales-tax rates of nine percent each. The federal government has never laid a sales tax before. Cain wants to collect income and consumption taxes at the same rates. He also wants to make sure that everyone has a stake in shrinking the federal budget and keeping it small.
The 9-9-9 Plan is breathtakingly simple in concept, and easy to explain. That makes it more likely to succeed. But Herman Cain wants to use it as a stepping-stone. His ultimate goal: the FairTax, a national sales tax to replace all income taxes.
Herman Cain’s positions on other issues are fully consistent with limited government and attention to national security. With regard to that last, today Dick Morris ran an interview with Cain. In it, Cain showed that he understands far more about foreign affairs than his detractors give him credit for. That’s because Cain understands what his detractors do not: namely how foreign, energy, and domestic policies depend on—or sometimes interfere with—one another.
Where does Herman Cain go from here?
Cain does not pretend that he has won the nomination already. That straw poll is no guarantee, and he knows it.
I don’t think that the past is necessarily a predictor of the future, although I like the fact that this has been a trend over the years. But the political landscape has changed so much…that I don’t think that it guarantees anything – other than I and my team, we need to keep working hard.
That’s as good as any disclaimer in a stock prospectus about “forward-looking statements.”
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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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