With Herman Cain making a first-place showing in Florida’s recent Presidency 5 straw poll and a Zogby poll, people are taking a second look at the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO turned presidential candidate.
Yesterday, Cain scored another resounding victory in the National Federation of Republican Women’s straw poll, drawing 48.9 percent of the vote.
But some would suggest he would make a perfect vice presidential running mate.
“I don’t know how you could do this,” said Texas Gov. Rick Perry of a potential running mate. “But if you could take Herman Cain and mate him up with Newt Gingrich, I think you would have a couple really interesting guys to work with.”
Cain is being taken more seriously these days as the “real deal” with a realistic chance of clinching the GOP presidential nomination, particularly among Tea Party activists and grassroots Republican activists. However, some observers note that Perry and Mitt Romney are beating out Cain in terms of fundraising and campaign infrastructure.
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From a strategic standpoint, there is a case to be made for Herman Cain as the Republican choice for VP. He wouldn’t be the first presidential hopeful to gun for the number two position. Plus, if he manages to avoid major gaffes and missteps during the primary season, Cain has brilliantly positioned himself as a perfect running mate should one of his rivals beat him out for the top spot.
Further, Cain has not attacked the other candidates or created bad blood in the way that Romney and Perry have gone after each other and burned bridges between them. One possible exception is Cain’s statements regarding Perry. Cain called Perry insensitive because the Texan’s family once leased a property for their hunting camp called “Ni**erhead. And Cain recently criticized his rival’s debate performance and stated that he could not support the Texas governor for the nomination because of his “soft” immigration stance.
In addition, Cain has solid business experience and strong Tea Party credentials, and would balance out a more moderate and establishment presidential nominee such Mitt Romney. And Cain could serve as the Republican attack dog — against a Democratic ticket headed by a black incumbent — and avoid being labeled as a racist.
Moreover, viewed from the lens of pure racial politics, voter ID laws may serve to suppress turnout among blacks and other democratic constituencies throughout the country. However, Republicans could further weaken black voter turnout if they position Herman Cain as an insurance policy against an Obama defeat. In other words, even if the president loses, at least the next vice president would be an African-American, or so the theory goes.
Daniel Diaz, former executive director of Young Americans for Freedom, would approve of Cain as a vice presidential choice. “I think he would be great because of his 9-9-9 plan on tax reform. He knows how to run a business efficiently,” said Diaz, now campaign manager for Steve Stockman in Texas’ 14th congressional district.
“He has a vision he has a plan. He is resonating with the Tea Party, and with young people,” Diaz said of Cain. “He is very personable, and reminds me very much of Mike Huckabee. He’s down to earth, he’s real, and he’s the type of person you’d want to have a beer with.”
Diaz prefers Cain, who has a strong Tea Party following, at the top of the GOP ticket. He noted that Cain’s ascendancy is taking place during the time in a presidential primary season when the pack starts to break out.
Part of Cain’s appeal, Diaz believes, is his similarity to one well-known African-American celebrity, and his contrasts to America’s black president. “Most definitely, if you look at the polls, Barack Obama has alienated a lot of Hispanics and African Americans. So anyone would be able to get a lot of support, and Herman Cain even more so. He’s like Bill Cosby,” Diaz said of Herman Cain. “Bill Cosby and Herman Cain speak at a very similar level. Barack Obama told people to stop eating Popeye’s fried chicken and start eating healthy. Barack Obama feels he should tell the black community how to live their lives. Herman Cain doesn’t. When Barack Obama speaks to the black community he sounds elitist,” Diaz added.
But not all Tea Party activists agree. Jason Hoyt of the Central Florida Tea Party rejects the notion of a Cain vice presidential candidacy outright. “It seems odd for people to be thinking as a vice presidential choice when he is making a run for the presidential nominee. I wouldn’t want to discount his presidential chances. He surged here in the P5 here in Florida,” Hoyt said.
Hoyt believes the party establishment has chosen Romney and Perry as the two GOP frontrunners, and suggests it is in the interests of the Republican establishment to promote the idea of Cain as vice presidential nominee. “I’m sure the GOP establishment would want that. Their picks Romney and Perry would want it to be about the vice presidential choice, and I don’t agree with the establishment starting that narrative. I think it’s way too early to look at him as a vice president,” Hoyt said of Cain.
According to Hoyt, this is the year of the outsider, and it is too early to count Herman Cain out. Cain is providing solutions from outside of the government, Hoyt suggests, with the message of getting government out of the way and freeing the people. “I think that his victory is a slap in the face of the media who have been driving Perry and Romney as their top tier candidates. It proves those who say ‘I like him but he can’t win,’ it proves them wrong. It is too early to say it is a fluke,” Hoyt said of Cain.
Other Tea Party activists conclude that Herman Cain would add little to a Republican ticket as a running mate. Phil Russo, a staffer in the New Jersey legislature and a founding member of the Orlando Tea Party, is one of them.
“I’m not really sure what he brings to the table as a VP candidate. He’s from Georgia. Geographically it doesn’t do it for them,” Russo said of any potential Republican strategy to place Cain in the number two slot. “He’s never been to elected office, so he doesn’t have any experience in winning an election.”
Russo would rather see Gov. Susana Martinez (R, New Mexico) or Sen. Marco Rubio (R, Florida) — two Latino politicians who have won a statewide election — as solid choices for vice president. “He is Hispanic and brings Hispanic voters to the Republican side,” Russo said regarding Rubio.
“The one thing Herman Cain has going for him is his business background. If it is Romney he doesn’t need someone with a business background to boost his bona fides,” he added.
Russo, who is also a political commentator and former radio talk show host, believes that a vice president will be selected from a swing state. In that regard, Rubio is a perfect choice. As of Cain, he concludes the candidate brings no African-American votes to the table.
“I think it is a bold statement to say that he could bring a third of the black vote over to the Republicans,” Russo said of Cain’s claims regarding the garnering of black support. “As far as the brainwashing thing I agree with him. For the most part, every minority group has been brainwashed into voting for one party,” Russo added.
“I think Hispanics and African-Americans have the same kind of view that the Republicans don’t like my ethnic group. The black unemployment rate is something like 30-something percent. I think Republican policies would benefit African-Americans more,” Russo said. “I don’t mean George W. Bush squishy policies, I mean Milton Friedman, Ron Paul, someone who believes in free market capitalism. Wherever you find prosperity you find free market capitalism. Wherever you find crime, unemployment and a lack of educational opportunity, all of those things are solved by free market capitalism.”
“I don’t buy that African-Americans want to collect a check. They want to be free, earn a living, and provide for their families like anyone else would do. You don’t make the African-American community more prosperous by making them victims, by telling them America is a racist country.”
Although Russo seems to make Herman Cain’s best arguments for blacks to become Republican, Russo disapproves of Cain’s stands on immigration and intolerance towards Muslim Americans. “The one thing I find disquieting about Herman Cain is his views on Muslims and Islam,” said Russo. Cain once offered that he would not appoint Muslims cabinet members to his administration, and would make Muslims prove loyalty to the U.S. Constitution. Cain has since apologized to the Muslim community for his statements.
Russo also noted that Cain supports building a fence along the U.S. border with Mexico, an idea he says is “logistically impossible.”
“It is not a good idea. It alienates an extremely important voting bloc. As conservatives we should be supporting immigration,” Russo added. “Conservatives will talk about the Constitution. Nothing in the Constitution says you need to be a citizen to work here. Part of it is the conservative movement pandering to extreme right.”
Cain’s stance on immigration, and the alienation of Hispanic voters, speaks to one of the candidate’s weaknesses in the general election, regardless of his position on a Republican ticket.
“We should encourage people to come here. The problem with assimilating Hispanics is our immigration policy. They’re stuck in this little enclave. Why conservatives believe this is beyond me. And we give Democrats cover by saying we don’t like Hispanics,” Russo concluded.
Still others in the Tea Party give the nod to a Cain vice presidency, but believe he lacks the right temperament for the job. And given Cain’s talents and abilities, he lacks the requisite experience of a Joe Biden or Dick Cheney in moving legislation.
“He has the skills to do it, but he doesn’t have the relationships in the Senate,” according to Tom Gaitens, co-founder of the Tampa Tea Party. Gaitens would be happy with Cain as the VP choice in terms of electability, given the man’s popularity among the Tea Party. But he is a perfect choice for president, Gaitens believes, and Cain’s talents would be unused as a vice president.
“As John Adams said, the position of vice president is not worth a bucket of spit,” Gaitens offered.
“You need someone who could work in the Senate to advance legislation. But that isn’t his experience. His experience is the ability to manage and to debate. I remember during the health care debate when he schooled President Clinton. And to President Clinton’s credit there hasn’t been a bigger policy wonk. And Cain completely dissected the subject, and you could tell Clinton was frustrated that Cain schooled the president on his own health care proposal,” Gaitens said.
“Herman Cain is a man with a depth of knowledge. Joe Biden is a perfect vice president, and he was a senator who worked in a legislative body to advance legislation, and he is useful. Joe Biden is the right type of choice for a vice president,” he concluded.
According to Gaitens, more appropriate choices include Rubio, former Senator Rick Santorum (R, Pennsylvania), and someone such as John Bolton for foreign policy experience. Rubio’s strength is the absence of vitriol in his statements, and his tendency to speak with calmness, as opposed to Cain. “It is important to have a vice president who is not going to sabotage the president’s agenda,” said Gaitens.
Further, the Tea Party activist does not believe the VP slot is on Cain’s radar screen. And in any case, he prefers not to entertain the idea.
“That is a gratuitous. Why do you care who is a vice presidential choice at this point? That is absurd and ludicrous. He is either one, two or three, depending on what poll you look at. He is doing a fantastic job,” said Gaitens. “And it is foolish to bring it up at this point. It is one of these gotcha types of questions,” he suggested.
Either way, now is Herman Cain’s time in the sun, and his political success will undoubtedly bring more scrutiny. And more people are bound to consider his potential not only as a presidential nominee, but as a vice-presidential nominee as well.
If Gaitens is correct, Cain once was everyone’s second-choice candidate.
“What’s going in is there is an effort to find a conservative candidate to win the nomination. Michele Bachmann lost steam. Rick Perry didn’t stand up in the debates and has to defend himself on certain issues that the right type of conservative wouldn’t have to defend himself on,” Gaitens said.
“Cain was everybody’s second choice early on. Cain gave the right in-depth answers on these questions. People are looking at this and saying, ‘Hey, I really like this.’ He is rocking the establishment Rockefeller Republicans that are supporting Romney. Cain has stepped ahead of this pack right now. He is going to be the target of more in depth analysis.”