The Other McCain

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

Meanwhile, On the Campaign Trail … UPDATE: New Santorum Radio Ad in Iowa Hits Herman Cain for TARP Support UPDATE: No Mercy for Perrybots

Posted on | October 10, 2011 | 61 Comments

Reporters from The Times of London and The New Republic interview
J.D. Gordon, communications director for the Herman Cain campaign,
at the Pentagon City Costco in Arlington, Va., Friday Oct. 7

If nothing else, the “Occupy Wall Street” protests give the media a reason to ignore the GOP presidential campaign, and to avoid discussion of the increasing possibility that Herman Cain could be the Last Man Standing in the conservative grassroots battle to stop Mitt Romney from getting the nomination on the basis of the Republican Establishment’s “It’s His Turn” principle. “Sunshine State Sarah” has a nice round-up of Cain campign news today, and reminds me of something I wrote Friday:

You may have noticed that some of our Republican friends seemed to lose interest in the GOP nomination fight just about the time Rick Perry melted down and Herman Cain surged into contender status. These people are already making peace with the idea of Romney carrying the 2012 Republican banner.

There was a time, barely a month ago, when these friends of mine seemed to be convinced, and were trying to convince everybody else, that a Perry-Romney showdown for the nomination was a fait accompli, so that supporters of all the other candidates might as well pack it in and quit now. The collapse of the Perry bubble has embarrassed a lot of people, including those who accused Michelle Malkin of “bad faith” and lacking “intelligence and integrity.”

The Perrybots’ response to political demoralization has been a sort of Kübler-Ross grieving process and, while I’ve had occasion to point out that I predicted Perry’s collapse, I don’t blame the bandwagon-jumpers for thinking they were rolling to inevitable victory. It seemed logical, after all, that the Texas governor would be a strong voice for conservative values with the necessary skills, money and campaign organization to take on the brutally efficient Romney machine. We really can’t blame Perry’s supporters for the unfortunate fact that the candidate they supported turned out to be a doomed and useless dingbat.

A new Bloomberg/WaPo poll has the GOP race at Romney 24%, Cain 16%, Perry 13% and this is a result no one could have predicted a month ago. (Taegan Goddard notes that Jon Huntsman got zero support in this new poll.) Where the campaign stands now, and how Cain may fare in the weeks ahead, is the subject of my American Spectator column today:

People stood in line for more than an hour Friday at the Costco discount store in the Pentagon City complex of Arlington, Virginia, across the river from D.C. At the front of the line was the man they had come to see, who smiled and chatted cheerfully as he signed his autograph on the first page of his new book, This Is Herman Cain!
The exclamation point serves as a fitting symbol of the shock among the political class at how far Cain has come along the path described by his book’s subtitle: “My Journey to the White House.” The Atlanta businessman’s sharp rise in national polls since winning a Florida GOP straw poll on Sept. 24 has left pundits of all persuasions struggling to explain how a candidate so recently rated somewhere between “long shot” and “no chance” could have suddenly emerged as a contender. Even Cain — who has said all along that he was “in it to win it” — seems slightly surprised by how quickly he’s jumped to second place in the Republican field, edging past Texas Gov. Rick Perry and closing the gap with the front-runner, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Although he has “enjoyed a phenomenal surge within the last couple of weeks,” Cain told reporters after his Friday book signing, his campaign “has gradually built momentum” for several months. His stunning breakthrough last month in Orlando, where the Republican straw poll delegates gave him more votes than Perry and Romney combined, has kicked that slow-building momentum into overdrive. And the question now is whether he can sustain his surging momentum or whether Cain, who has never before held elected office, will become just another “flavor of the week” in the see-saw GOP campaign. . . .

Please read the whole thing. I’ve got more photos and videos to upload, and there’s more campaign news to share, but I’ll add that in updates.

UPDATE: One of the things I foreshadowed in this morning’s column was an expectation that Rick Santorum was ready to go on the attack against Cain:

The Pennsylvanian is one of the few Republican candidates who hasn’t yet gotten a “flavor of the week” moment and, with another round of debates Tuesday in Hanover, N.H., and Oct. 18 in Las Vegas, Santorum may be foremost among those looking to throw a few rhetorical punches toward the surging Cain.

And this afternoon came the news that Santorum has released a radio ad — with a $30,000 buy in Iowa — that includes a shot at Cain for supporting the 2008 TARP bailout. As the Washington Post‘s Aaron Blake says, Santorum thus “effectively becomes the first major candidate to attack Cain.”

Cain has said he knows he’s got a target on his back now, and we’ll see how well he handles it in the debates Tuesday (Hanover, N.H., on Bloomberg TV) and Oct. 18 in Las Vegas. I have previously remarked that Santorum has proven himself a “brutal counter-puncher in debates.” He has been bumping along in single digits in the polls, waiting for his shot, and talking to him Friday at the Values Voters Summit, I got the sense he was ready to make a move.

UPDATE II: Here are a couple of videos from Herman Cain’s book-signing event Friday in Arlington. First, I spotted some familiar faces in the line at Costco:

And here is Cain, after the book-signing and his Q&A with reporters, talking about his “phenomenal surge” in the campaign:

UPDATE III: The latest poll in New Hampshire puts Romney (of course) first at 38%, followed by Cain at 20% and Allahpundit describes how far Rick Perry has fallen:

Perry clocks in at four percent, tied for fifth with Huntsman behind Romney, Cain, Paul, and Gingrich at five percent. Four percent is also what he polled in last week’s WMUR survey of New Hampshire likely voters, so in case you were thinking of discarding that one as an outlier, think again. This guy is, for the moment, on life support in one of the big five early-primary states . . .

Allah goes to great lengths trying to imagine a comeback strategy for Perry, but . . . Dude. When your “conservative” Republican front-runner candidate is tied with Jon Huntsman, it’s over.

UPDATE IV: A commenter objects to my employing the phrase “useless dingbat” to describe Rick Perry. This required an explanation in the comments, which I’ll repeat up here for the benefit of anyone who might be curious:

“Useless dingbat” is a phrase borrowed from Hunter S. Thompson’s description of Ed Muskie in 1972. If you haven’t read Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, you probably didn’t notice the parallels between Perry’s meltdown in the Orlando debate and Muskie’s infamous “Sunshine Special” debacle. But I noticed the parallel, and the idea of describing Perry in similar terms as Thompson described Muskie was inspired by that parallel.
Given how Perry’s supporters spent the first six weeks of his campaign personally savaging anyone who criticized Perry — including Michelle Malkin — I’m not in much of mood to hear pleas for mercy from Perrybots now that their candidate is doomed beyond hope of recovery.

I warned readers in early August of my concerns about the Perry campaign. Little notice was paid to my warning, while other blogs were urging everybody to jump on that $17 million bandwagon. So if the Perrybots are feeling butt-hurt now, that’s not my fault. You chumps need to go ask Erick Erickson why he didn’t warn you that Perry couldn’t debate his way out of a wet paper sack.

UPDATE V: Having mentioned my warnings, let’s take a stroll down memory lane, why don’t we? On Aug. 5 — the third day of my Iowa trip — I wrote:

Having Rick Perry’s potential campaign looming on the horizon casts a certain shadow over the proceedings here.

Perry’s supporters were running TV ads in Iowa in the run-up to the Ames Straw Poll, even though (a) Perry was not yet officially a candidate; and (b) Perry wasn’t participating in the straw poll.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Who does a thing like that? Later that day (Aug. 5 was a Friday), I posted:

My phone just rang with a tip from a source who says his Texas sources tell him that Rick Perry is going to unofficially announce this weekend that he’s going to make an official announcement next week.

Which was pretty close to right: The “unofficial” word went out Monday, and the official announcement was . . . Saturday, Aug. 13, the same day as the Ames Straw Poll, a deliberate diss to Iowa and an attempt to upstage the other candidates already in the race.

Again: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Four days later (Tuesday, Aug. 9), I encountered “Americans for Perry” campaigning at what was supposed to be a Tim Pawlenty event:

Yeah, I know political journalists aren’t supposed to believe in “omens.” Still, there’s something vaguely . . . hinky about the way Perry’s stealth campaign has been operating here in Iowa.
Call me crazy. Attribute my forebodings of doom to irrational prejudice. Say what you will, and I don’t care, but I felt a need to put on the record my instinctive sense that there’s something fundamentally wrong about the Perry campaign. And if Jan. 20, 2013, brings the joyous inauguration of President Perry, then you can say my fears were mistaken. Yet I can’t shake my gut hunch is that it won’t work out that way. Some kind of catastrophe will result, one way or another.

And in response to a comment by Steven in TN, I explained:

There have been a few little things — including one source who says Perry has been on the wrong side of the eminent-domain issue — that lead me to think Perry is a lot less certain ultimately to win the nomination than some people seem to think. What I fear will happen is that Perry will spend several months sucking up media oxygen and burning through GOP donor cash, only to collapse early next year. This will have the effect of suffocating other conservative candidates, and thereby lead to … Romney 2012.
Understand, Steve: I’m not exactly anti-Perry. I got nothing against him personally or ideologically, and many of my Texas friends swear by the guy. But in my experience, when something looks too good to be true, it usually is. And there is a too-good-to-be-true vibe to this idea of “Perry to the Rescue.” Maybe my Jedi senses are wrong this time, but I’ve got a spooky bad feeling and I just can’t shake it.

I stuck by that prediction without apology, and on Aug. 28 — while Perry was building a huge lead on Romney in the polls — I re-iterated:

Go back to what first concerned me: Why would a Republican campaign go out of its way to “diss” the Iowa GOP in that manner? It is one thing for a candidate like Mitt Romney to de-emphasize Iowa, skip the straw poll and concentrate his efforts elsewhere. It was another thing — an unnecessarily provocative thing — for Perry’s campaign to deliberately upstage the Ames Straw Poll the way it did.
And who was the primary victim of that gesture? Michele Bachmann.
Bachmann won the straw poll, thereby destroying Tim Pawlenty’s campaign, but no sooner had the Republican 2012 herd been thinned by the culling of its weakest candidate — Pawlenty was always weak — than Perry jumped in and vaulted to the front of the pack. This put Perry ahead of other candidates who had spent many months criss-crossing the country and shaking hands with folks at county GOP events and hustling up contributions $50 and $100 at a time.
OK, fine. Congratulations to Team Perry on their Instant Front-Runner status. But I again repeat that I’m getting bad vibes about this development. When all is said and done, my early sense of foreboding will either be vindicated or discredited.

And I think we see which way matters are tending, eh? Perry stuck his thumb in Iowa’s eye, and it was the kind of bullying gesture that seemed to me so ill-advised as to raise serious doubts. There was more than that, though.

Before Perry ever got in the race, I had talked to an operative who had met Perry and worked with him in Texas. The operative said that (a) Perry was not a dynamic speaker, and (b) Perry was “uncomfortable in his own skin.” My source wasn’t very specific about what that last remark meant, but once the debates started, I could see what he was talking about.

And here’s the thing: My source was not anti-Perry. He liked the guy, but was being frank in expressing doubts as to whether Perry could make it at the presidential level.

The worst of it, though, was the godawful defensiveness of Perry’s supporters. For about six weeks there, anybody who criticized Perry got ripped to shreds because (so the Perry supporters had convinced themselves) Perry was the only alternative to Romney.

Ergo, if Bachmann hit Perry on the Gardasil thing, or if Santorum slammed Perry on immigration, Bachmann and Santorum were de facto Romney allies, and must be destroyed. All of that venom directed at Perry’s critics — including Streiff’s vicious attack on Michelle Malkin — did nothing to help Perry, however.

In fact, once Perry started freefalling, nothing could help him. So Perry’s defenders were just wasting their time and energy defending him, and the parallels to Ed Muskie’s startling collapse in 1972 were hard to ignore.

Watching Allahpundit trying to think up ways that Perry could possibly recover . . . Well, it’s painful, is what it is, because it’s not going to happen, and I think even Allahpundit knows that. Nevertheless, it’s good to see Team Perry finally start spending some of the millions they’ve collected to run TV ads attacking Mitt Romney:

Why did Team Perry wait nearly two months into their campaign to do this? If the argument for their candidate is “He Can Beat Mitt,” why not, y’know, start beating Mitt?

But never mind. I don’t know nothing about politics. And here’s some sad news for you Perrybots:

As poll numbers drop, Perry
pushed to side of debate stage

UPDATE VI: Ace continues his Kübler-Ross process:

I really hope Perry gets his act together and soon. There are debates scheduled for this week and next. With the primary schedule getting ever more condensed, it’s getting late pretty early for Perry.

Ace seems to be making the assumption that Cain can’t possibly go the distance and beat Romney. But nobody ever thought Cain would get this far, did they? Having covered Cain for 10 months, I’ve been hearing the “Cain can’t win” argument for 10 months. Maybe the people who keep saying “Cain can’t win” are right.

But Herman Cain just keeps on winning, doesn’t he?


61 Responses to “Meanwhile, On the Campaign Trail … UPDATE: New Santorum Radio Ad in Iowa Hits Herman Cain for TARP Support UPDATE: No Mercy for Perrybots”

  1. Rabid Conservative!
    October 11th, 2011 @ 3:14 am

    Is Cain a stooge for Romney and the establishment to make sure gets the nomination?

  2. Anonymous
    October 11th, 2011 @ 3:31 am

    Oh, I’m single, and can easily imagine worse fates than being Christina Hendricks’ live-in houseboy.

  3. Anonymous
    October 11th, 2011 @ 6:22 am

    Reality eventually catches us all.

  4. gloogle gloogle
    October 11th, 2011 @ 8:47 am

    “Herman Cain just keeps on winning”.

    Dude, nobody has “won” anything yet.  But don’t worry, the voters will let you know who the “winners” are in just a few months…

  5. Joe
    October 11th, 2011 @ 9:25 am

    Exactly correct. 

    And as I noted above, Rick Santorum did not oppose TARP before it was voted on.  It is easy to do so after the fact.  I suspect a guy who endorsed Spector would have voted for TARP if he was in office.  He would have gone along with the party.  But he was not.  Because his state rejected him by 20 points. 

  6. Thomas Knapp
    October 11th, 2011 @ 9:28 am


    I suppose it’s possible I just have a blind spot about Romney. I’ve never understood what people see in him.

    Then again, we’re talking about a political party whose members look at that whiny, smug government careerist Rick Santorum and, for no apparent reason, see something other than a guy who needs to be dragged down the hall by his ears to the toilet for a swirlie to teach him some fucking humility. Romney may be the Mormon in the race, but Santorum is the one I’d expect to slip up and reproduce the Joseph Smith comment about governing with God at his right hand.

    Like I said, I find this year’s field confusing.

  7. ThePaganTemple
    October 11th, 2011 @ 10:09 am

    They don’t have to dig anything up against Perry, all they have to do is wait and let the shit stumble out of his mouth.

  8. Joe
    October 11th, 2011 @ 12:51 pm

    Can you set up Wombat for a special meeting with Christina?  I will live vicariously through him. 

  9. Joe
    October 11th, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

    I am no big Mitt Romney fan, but I agree.   My concern about Mitt has zero to do with him being a Mormon but a lot to do with his “pramatic” GOP tendencies.  They worry me a lot and for good cause.  And I absolutely want him to clearly explain why Obamacare is bad and why Romney care is okay (because I think both are wrong).  But Mitt Romney is a thousand times better than Barack Obama. 

    There is something about Rick that worries me.  Would he impose a theocracy?  Certainly not.  Would he blow the general election and embarass conservatives with social issue overreaching?  Yeah, he could.  But ultimately, I think he is a poor candidate. 

    I like Herman Cain a lot.  I hope he does well.  I also wish we had some more candidates running. 

  10. Joe
    October 11th, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

    That is my fear about Cain.  I like that he is sponanteous, but some of these comments suggest someone who has not thought these issues out.    I like that inuitive speed chess business style, but it can back fire on you. 

    Mitt Romney is the other extreme of this, being way too careful and methodical.  Now if you are putting together a shattered economy, methodical is not bad in many circumstances.  It can be a plus.  But as a politician it makes Mitt seem insincere. 

  11. Joe
    October 11th, 2011 @ 1:10 pm

    You are correct-a-mundo!