Commentary Magazine


What the Top Tier Can Learn from Herman Cain

The candidate for president who best stands the chance of earning the gadfly-with-breakout-potential trophy is Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza who went viral even in pre-YouTube days by confronting Bill Clinton at a health-care forum back in 1994. Cain did well with focus-group watchers after the first GOP debate in South Carolina. He formally announced his candidacy today. But the question now is not, Can Herman Cain win? He almost certainly can’t, and shouldn’t; he’s never held elective office and the presidency has not an entry-level position for anyone but Eisenhower, the victor of World War II.

The question is, What does his grassroots success so far mean for the other candidates?

I think the message is: Keep it simple, stupid. What Cain says is pretty basic. There’s too much regulation, taxes are too high, we need to take power back from the federal government, we need to get rid of Obamacare. Everybody else says variations of this, but the other candidates want to talk about the specifics of what they’ve done, the proposals they have, and the way they intend to fight. Maybe they’re overbriefing and overthinking themselves. Maybe what people want to hear right now are very simple and eloquent statements of the first principles that underlie the conservative argument against Obama rather than being dragged into the weeds on policy.

Could be a good lesson for Mitch Daniels if he gets in.