If there has been a feel good story of the 2012 presidential campaign, it’s been Herman Cain’s rapid rise in the polls. His campaign has gone from near obscurity to the talk of the political class thanks to a solid debate performance and encouraging poll numbers. It also didn’t hurt that Cain attracted between 10,000 and 15,000 people to his announcement in Atlanta last month and has also drawn impressive crowds while campaigning in Iowa.
It now appears that Cain’s joyride may be over as increased media scrutiny has raised questions about Cain’s depth of knowledge on a number of issues. Some of his statements are now putting him at odds with social conservatives in Iowa, a group of voters to which he must appeal if he’s going to do well in Iowa.
The first chink in Cain’s armor came in the Fox News debate when he acknowledged that he did know enough about Afghanistan to have an opinion on how America should handle that delicate situation. While Cain shined during the debate, the media began to press Cain on other foreign policy issues in the days that followed.
On the subject of Israel, Cain has stated, “Don’t mess with Israel. You mess with Israel, you mess with the U.S.” That line is sure to play well with ordinary people, but when Fox’s Chris Wallace asked him about other issues regarding the Israeli Palestinian conflict, such as Palestinian right of return, Cain seemed clueless.
Cain’s difficulties on issues have not been limited to just foreign policy. Social conservatives are upset over a statement that Cain made early this week when he said that he would have no problem hiring an openly gay person for a position in his administration.
In many respects, Cain gave the correct answer as job qualifications should be the number one consideration in an employment search. However, Cain could have handled the question better. He could have said that applicants would be judged by content of their character, not specifically their sexual preference.
There was no doubt that Cain’s statement was sure to cause him some grief with some of the state’s most vocal social conservatives, but just as his weak answer on foreign policy invited the media to ask him further questions about his position, Cain was asked to expound upon this topic on CNN. Cain’s answer, or lack there of, will only compound his problems with Iowa social conservatives.
Cain was grilled by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on the issue of gay marriage. Cain told CNN, “I am pro-life from conception and I believe in traditional marriage.” But Blitzer wanted to know where Cain stood on civil unions. Cain repeatedly said, “I support traditional marriage.” Blitzer continued to press until Cain asked the Blitzer to move on to a new subject.
The bad news for Cain is that these issues are going to dog him throughout the campaign. It is likely that he will be asked about these subjects in CNN’s upcoming debate. If he uses the same approach he took with Blitzer on an issue like civil unions, Cain could severely damage his campaign.
Many political operatives believe that having a candidate without a record is an advantage. That may be true in most races, but when you run for the highest office in the land, that may not be the case. Over the past few weeks Cain has shown that he can deliver some great one-liners, but his depth of knowledge appears limited at times. Furthermore, having never held public office nor ever been the party nominee for office, Cain is struggling with how to handle the increased media scrutiny.
It’s obvious that the Cain campaign’s honeymoon is over. He will now either sink or swim on his own ability to answer serious questions about serious topics. An obscure candidate can get by admitting that he’s not going to comment because he doesn’t have the necessary information to make a decision. Cain can no longer use that excuse. He’s running for President of the United States, and Americans deserve answers to difficult questions.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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