Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Cain Scrutiny

At this point, in the middle of what will probably be the defining moment of his candidacy, Herman Cain holds the key to the Republican nomination. If he holds onto his support and builds on it, he could go into the voting stage of the campaign with a chance at winning some of the early primaries. If the scandal erodes his support, the main concern will be where his supporters go. To Romney? Perry? Gingrich (that Newt is still in the hunt is truly remarkable)?

As of today, Cain either leads or is close to Mitt Romney at the top of the polls in South Carolina, Florida, North Carolina, Maine (Romney territory), and at least one national poll. Never mind that he trails President Obama in head-to-head match-ups (scroll down a bit). He can worry about that once the nomination is sewn up. Cain clearly has a constituency and so far it seems to be sticking by him. Surveys in the next 2-3 days will begin demonstrating the staying power of his support and the toll the allegations are taking on him, but if more women step forward with claims, he will clearly not be the nominee.

The general feeling among party officials and most of the media is that Mitt Romney will eventually be the Republican nominee, but his support seems to be soft. In this article by Mark Blumenthal at the Huffington Post, the Republican Power Outsiders are not committing to Mitt in great numbers. Asked of they had endorsed a candidate in the race yet, a full 66% said no, they had not. Of the 31% who had endorsed a candidate, Romney and Rick Perry were tied atop the list with the support of 14% each.

The chart below, from the Huffington Post article, is also revealing.

Note that Newt is in 3rd place. The man is amazing. The news for Mitt Romney, though, is that this could be a long race.

Which brings us back to Herman Cain (remember Herman? This is a post about Herman). What makes Cain's support and climb up the polls remarkable is that he's been in the race from the beginning, and went from afterthought to frontrunner without a radical overhaul of his campaign. Michele Bachmann was the right's darling in August, and then Rick Perry harshed her mellow simply by entering the race. Cain has since held his own in the debates, won the Florida Straw Poll, and is withstanding attacks over his economic plan and how conservative he really is. He's risen in the polls all by himself and has held on to his numbers despite taking a somewhat circuitous route on issues such as abortion and gay marriage. Further, his choices of running mate could make for a Republican dream team. Can you say Cain-Rice (then again, maybe not)? Cain-Christie? Cain-Daniels?

When Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Jon Hunstman and Bachmann eventually leave the race, much of their support could go to Cain as opposed to Romney. After all, there isn't much of a moderate electorate left in the Republican party to go to Romney. He hasn't topped out, but he's going to have to convince a lot of conservatives to move away from Perry and Cain in order to win in Iowa and South Carolina.

But of course all of this depends on the next few days and whether Herman Cain can move past this episode with minimal damage. After all the time he spent in the background of the race, Cain is now getting the full frontrunner treatment. He should be careful what he wishes for.

No comments:

Post a Comment