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May 17th, 2011

Is Herman Cain Becoming Legitimate Contender?

By Kevin Hall

Most of the pundits do not believe Herman Cain has any chance of winning the GOP nomination.  As is often the case, the pundits might be wrong.  The Georgia businessman is showing signs that he just might be a force in the presidential race.  Cain continues to win straw polls around the nation and was declared the winner of the first presidential debate.  While tea party groups remain Cain’s base, his appeal is extending across the Republican spectrum.

Cain found plenty of interest among prominent Iowa Republicans Monday.  He held private meetings with potential donors, was extremely well received at the State Capitol by Republican legislators, and shared a few minutes with Governor Branstad.  That was followed by another very well received speech, as 90 likely caucus goers packed Smokey Row in Des Moines for a town hall meeting.

“Herman seems like the kind of guy that could win,” said businessman and farmer Wendell Eiklenborg following the event.  “I’d like to see how he distinguishes himself from Judge Roy Moore on some issues, but I did like what he had to say.”

Iowans are noticing that Cain has a mixture of a lot of the qualities they are looking for in a candidate.  The departure of Donald Trump gives Cain the exclusive edge of being the only businessman and non-politician in the race.  Mike Huckabee’s decision not to run means Cain has little competition for the best communicator in the race.  He has just as much Tea Party appeal as Michelle Bachmann.

Cain, like Huckabee, is a Baptist preacher.  When asked during Monday’s town hall if Jesus Christ was his primary counselor, he quickly responded, “Yes”.  Cain believes he will pick up some of the social conservative voters who backed Huckabee in 2008.

“I think the social conservatives might split into any number of candidates depending on who they want to support,” Cain told a gaggle of reporters Monday.  “I think that my business background, my problem solving ability is what’s going to attract a lot of people.  I am socially conservative, so I’ll probably pick up some of those but not necessarily all of them.”

Cain’s speech at last weekend’s Georgia GOP convention was interrupted by more than a dozen standing ovations.  He spoke to a larger crowd and received much better response than his fellow Georgian Newt Gingrich.  Although Gingrich is much better known, Cain believes he has an advantage over the former U.S. House Speaker.

“What distinguishes me from him is over 40 years of business experience, where he’s had over 40 years of political experience,” Cain said.  “And I think over 40 years of business experience is resonating a lot more with people than simply having political experience.  Knowing how Washington works isn’t necessarily an advantage.  As a businessman going in, I don’t want to know how Washington works.  I want to change Washington, D.C.”

Finally, perhaps more than any other candidate, Cain is naturally likeable and seems genuine.  He is at ease while chatting with common Iowans.  That is not the case with all the candidates.  He also has a sense of humor and is able to tell jokes that aren’t scripted for him.

During the middle of his Q and A session at Smokey Row Monday, Cain interrupted himself and asked a man seated near him, “Are you gonna eat the rest of that sandwich?”   It was an amusing, off-the-cuff moment that the crowd appreciated.  “You can tell I like to have fun,” Cain said as the crowd chuckled.

Joyce Lutz, a retiree from Des Moines, says she will take her time to decide on a candidate, but impressed by Herman Cain.  “I liked what he said,” Lutz said.  “It was nice to hear that he’s a Christian.  That’s a very positive thing.”

Cain is working hard to earn Iowans votes.  He has a town hall meeting scheduled for Marshalltown on Tuesday, followed by a Linn County GOP chili cook-off in Cedar Rapids. He will return to the state Friday for the Pottawattamie County GOP’s fundraiser.  On Saturday, Herman Cain will hold a rally in Atlanta to announce his official candidacy for the presidency.  He remains a long shot, but no candidate has gained more momentum in the past few weeks that Cain.  If that momentum continues, Cain very well might be able to win it all.

Photo by Dave Davidson

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About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for TheIowaRepublican.com.




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