The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

VIDEO: Herman Cain vs. Clinton, 1994

Posted on | January 18, 2011 | 10 Comments

Watch this video in which the Godfather’s Pizza CEO discusses the economic impact of government health-care with Bill Clinton, and tell me if you can think of any Republican candidate better qualified to argue the case for repealing ObamaCare:

You really ought to read this 1994 Newsweek article that highlights Cain’s key role in helping defeat HillaryCare. A lot of pundits keep low-balling Cain’s 2012 prospects, but Dave Weigel points out how that moment made Cain a conservative hero:

Herman Cain’s political career began when he defeated Bill Clinton on live television. . . .
Conservatives treated the Cain mutiny like a bootleg from a Bob Dylan/George Harrison jam session, passed from fan to fan. Rush Limbaugh played the clip on his short-lived TV show. Cain’s senator, Paul Coverdell, called him a “profile in courage.” Newt Gingrich praised Cain and, after Republicans won Congress in the fall, gave him a slot on a flat-tax study group. . . .
Last week Cain launched a presidential exploratory committee, becoming the first Republican candidate of the 2012 race. . . .
In 2011, the Republican electorate wants to hear from anyone who’s not a politician. . . .
“The political landscape has changed dramatically because of the citizens’ movement spurred by the Tea Party movement,” Cain told me in an interview, giving me the elevator pitch for why he couldn’t win a GOP Senate primary in 2004 but can win a presidential primary now. “Based upon me being very active in that citizens movement, talking to dozens and dozens and dozens of Tea Party rallies, events, conferences all over this country, I believe that people have a better attitude for an unconventional candidate—someone who’s more of a problem-solver than a politician.”
He’s right about the Tea Party. When Cain speaks at conservative conferences and Tea Party rallies, he gets bigger crowds than members of Congress, and only slightly smaller crowds than Fox News hosts. . . .

You should read the rest of that. Be prepared for the usual skeptical snarkiness from Weigel, who doesn’t want to blow his smart-guy rep by being seen as overrating a longshot. But I frankly think Cain’s being underestimated. 

He’s got a rare combination: Business experience and populist appeal. I’ve called him “Steve Forbes with charisma,” but you could also think of him as Ross Perot without the craziness. If you’ve seen how Cain can connect with a conservative crowd, and then you start thinking about the kind of grassroots, hand-shaking, retail politics that it takes to win in Iowa and New Hampshire . . .

Hey, he already beat cancer. You gonna bet against a guy like that?

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