The case against Herman Cain
Yesterday, we made the case for longshot GOP presidential candidate -- pizza magnate Herman Cain -- and why he could be a bigger factor in the 2012 race than you might think.
Today, we make the (much easier) opposite case.
Money: The biggest obstacle for any little-known candidate is cash. And that goes double for a small-time -- or "mid-major," as we labeled Cain on Tuesday -- candidate. Cain admitted as much in an interview with The Fix this week. "The biggest barrier is a lot of contributors want to stay on the sidelines until they see how well you can do," he said. "A lot of people don't back the person they want to win; they back the person who they think is going to win." The good news for Cain is he's got some personal money -- not Mitt Romney money, but enough to seed his campaign and get it off the ground. From there, he needs to convince donors, along with voters, that he's for real. Cain self-funded $775,000 and raised another $2 million for his failed 2004 Georgia Senate primary campaign. Those are solid totals for a statewide primary, but he needs to raise a lot more now.
History: As we just mentioned, Cain lost in his only other bid for major office, finishing second in a 2004 GOP Senate primary and failing to force a runoff with now-Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). Cain insists he got a late start and said it was valuable learning experience, but the fact remains that he lost 53 percent to 26 percent. There's also, of course, the history of presidential campaigns. The only non-elected officeholders to win the presidency have been military generals. So Cain would be coming from a far different world than anybody before him. He says it's a benefit to not have a political background these days -- "Real folks don't give a flip about having previous political experience" -- but it can also be a roadblock to building an organization and convincing people of your credibility.
Name recognition: There's a decent chance you haven't heard Cain's name before. And, in that, you would have a lot in common with most Republican primary voters in states like Iowa and New Hampshire. It's going to take a lot of time and money for Cain to change that stark reality. Name identification is the most valuable quantity in politics, and Cain acknowledges it's a big obstacle for him. "The general public doesn't know who I am," he said. "My biggest weakness is national household name ID." A few presidential debates may help change that, but when there are so many people on stage and in the race, there are often limited opportunities to assert yourself and stand out.
The definition of victory: Yesterday, we made the case that Cain could be doing something very good for his career by running for president. Well, that cuts both ways. If Cain comes across as a self-promoter willing to say or do anything for attention, he could fade into the background and have a hard time raising money. That said, the effort Cain is putting into the campaign suggests this is much more than just a fleeting Donald-Trump-for-President type situation. He's working the grassroots, traveling the country and speaking to small gatherings of conservatives. Still, he's going to have to convince many of them that he's not a novelty candidate and that this unorthodox candidate actually has a shot.