Is Cain for Real?

This wasn’t supposed to happen. The Drudge Report called it a “shocker.” Rick Perry, not Herman Cain, was slated to win that Florida straw poll. That, of course, was prior to the infamous Perry meltdown in Thursday night’s debate. It was before Herman Cain could be found speaking to any and all who attended the straw poll, delivering speeches that brought crowds to their feet in delight. Perry’s expected win pre-dated the activities of The Hermanator [Cain’s own tongue-in-cheek name for himself].

I freely admit my views on Cain have evolved matured in the past week. I reported in this blog last Thursday that I had had the opportunity to sit next to Cain at a Republican club meeting. Prior to that meeting, I perceived him as a good Christian man who probably was out of his depth trying to win the presidency, primarily because he had no previous political experience. His whole manner that evening, as well as the conviction that permeated his speaking, altered that view to the point where I wished he could be more than an also-ran.

At that meeting, Cain had copies of his autobiography, which is due to be released to the general public in the next week or two. I bought one, figuring I would read it sometime, probably after Cain’s star had eclipsed—sort of as a historical footnote. At least he had autographed it, and it would be a keepsake.

Then came the debate. Not only did Perry collapse, but Cain captured the attention of the audience with his personal story and his ability to relate it to the awful truth about Obamacare. I also noted that Bachmann had done nothing to raise her prospects in that debate, so I began to wonder if Cain could actually win the straw poll, particularly since Romney had decided to skip participating in it. So I was not completely surprised when Cain won, but I must admit I was taken aback by the strength of the victory—twice as many votes as Perry and Romney combined.

There may have been some political chicanery involved; reports have surfaced that some Romney people were urging their supporters to vote for Cain as a way of destroying Perry. Yes, some of that might have occurred. But that can’t explain the totality of the Cain victory. He truly energized the crowds whenever he spoke. Straw polls are not the equivalent of primaries, but they do give an indication of the hearts of a party’s key activists. They are not insignificant, particularly this one, which brought delegates from all over the state to get the measure of the candidates.

His victory led me yesterday to pick up his book sooner than I had expected. I decided it was time to get the full story. It’s not a difficult read; most campaign biographies are not. Yet just because it was easy to read doesn’t mean it had no substance. I was quite impressed with the Cain narrative, particularly how he moved from one job to another, always seeking a new challenge. In one instance, he resigned a vice-president’s position with Pillsbury to become a Burger King trainee for management. No one could fathom why he would do that. To him, though, it was the next step in learning how to take responsibility and mastering another level of management.

Later, he turned around Godfather’s Pizza, not only making it profitable again, but in the process buying the company himself when Pillsbury decided to sell it. That was a tremendous financial risk for Cain, but now he was his own CEO. The entire story of his life reveals a man who never backs down from a challenge, and who believes God leads him step by step. Yet one doesn’t get the sense that he is bragging; he knows to Whom he owes everything.

As with all Republican candidates, he invokes the memory of Ronald Reagan. Yet with Cain, it doesn’t come across as a deliberate attempt to capitalize on Republican nostalgia so much as a heartfelt appreciation for what Reagan offered. There are also similarities between the two men. Both came through near-death experiences with one thing on their minds: the realization that whatever time they had left was to be God’s time, to do His bidding, whatever that might be.

The other obvious similarity is the way the media [and some politicos] treat[ed] their candidacies. Reagan, despite being a two-term governor of the largest state in the Union, was referred to repeatedly as a grade-B movie actor, a joke, a nonentity. He surely couldn’t win the nomination, but even if, by some miracle, he did, he would be trounced in a general election by the sitting president. Remember him? Jimmy Carter? The most incompetent president of the twentieth century? How did that turn out?

By the same token, Cain is viewed as someone incapable of winning the nomination. He’s just a second-tier candidate with no political experience, a really good speaker, but someone who, given an even greater miracle than Reagan’s, will be smashed by the sitting president. Really? By Barack Obama, the most incompetent and ideologically bound president of the twenty-first century? A successful businessman who knows how to create jobs vs. a socialist who destroys jobs? A man who will break the hold Obama has on the black electorate while sustaining the support of conservatives and appealing to independents? Why does that make him unelectable?

Cain knows he has an uphill climb to convince people that his candidacy is viable. At the end of his book, he addresses that in a section called “My Candidacy, Against the Odds”:

Some mainstream Republican pundits and, more interestingly, Democratic operatives, have criticized my candidacy. The pundits have attacked my lack of political office-holding experience, dismissing me as a radio talk show host who offers entertainment. The Democrats attack me because in their view, and rightly so, I am Barack Obama’s worst nightmare! To anyone attempting to scout my “weaknesses,” I list three more.

  1. I don’t claim to know everything;
  2. I don’t pander to groups;
  3. I am terrible at political correctness.

Like any candidate or, for that matter, the sitting president, I will make some gaffes and occasionally stumble in interviews with the press. On the other hand, my strengths include: identifying, framing, and solving problems; surrounding myself with good and great people; and giving inspirational speeches to engage the American people in my common sense solutions process.

He concludes the book with these words:

I realize that the road to the nomination and the White House is long and difficult. I know that we will encounter many new challenges along the way. When one recognizes that I am up against the skeptics, the critics, the establishment, the Democrats, the liberals, including a liberal-leaning mainstream media, the need to raise significant funds, and a host of other candidates seeking the same objectives, my candidacy seems to go against the odds.

But then, that’s been the story of my life and career. Maybe my middle name should have been David. He defeated a giant against the odds.

When Cain’s book becomes available in October, you may want to read it. It provides insight into a man who is intelligent, successful, and full of faith in the One who has guided his life thus far.