Archives: Herman Cain’s rise coincides with Rick Perry’s fall

Originally published in September 2011
Simon Nguyen

Herman Cain is the newest star in the race for the 2012 Republican nomination. On the heels of his surprise victory in the Florida straw poll, the former chairman of the Kansas City Federal Reserve is making big waves with conservatives. The latest Fox News poll puts him third among the GOP candidates at 17%. Cain’s gains are at the expense of Rick Perry, who drops 10 percentage points from last month’s poll. What has been behind Herman Cain’s big surge?

Among the leading Republican contenders, Herman Cain has been the best at articulating his message. Unlike Rick Perry and Mitt Romney who frequently change their positions, Cain has been remarkably consistent in his message. The former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza is especially good at expressing his political positions in a coherent and common-sense way. Case in point, Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan is a something everyone can fully grasp. People can decide for themselves to be for or against it. This is in contrast to the complex and detail-heavy plans offered by most of his rivals.

Herman Cain’s strong debate performances are also one of the key factors behind the recent surge. Even with limited face time in the debates, Cain has somehow managed to make the most of his opportunities. While his fellow Republican candidates have been going hard after Rick Perry in the debates, the Tennessee native has elected not to robustly attacking the GOP frontrunner. This is a brilliant strategy as many of Perry’s defected supporters are now switching to Cain instead of the other candidates. Voters still prefer positivism over bitter politics.

Cain’s biggest strength is the fact that he has not actively been in the political spotlight until this campaign. The risk of being heavily involved in state or national politics is the extra baggage that comes with it. Case in point, Rick Perry’s Texas immigration policy is under strong criticisms while Mitt Romney is still haunted by Romneycare. Meanwhile, Herman Cain can talk about his life story, business experience and education without having to defend anything or change any position.

Can Herman Cain maintain the positive momentum? Recent developments suggest there is more depth to the Cain’s campaign than previously thought. In addition to his Florida straw poll victory, Cain also won several less heralded straw polls in 2011. His relentless courting of smaller but not insignificant conservative groups is clearly paying off.

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