Sunday, October 2, 2011

Time to raise Cain to contender status

Michael Barone
Is Herman Cain a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination? It's a question no one in the pundit world was asking until the past week.

Cain has never held public office. When he ran for the Senate in Georgia in 2004 he lost the primary by a 52 to 26 percent margin.

He has zero experience in foreign or defense policy, where presidents have the most leeway to set policy. When questioned about the Middle East earlier this year he clearly had no idea what the "right of return" is.

His solid performance in the Fox News/Google debate Sept. 22 didn't get pundits to take his chances seriously.

Neither did his 37 to 15 percent victory over Rick Perry in the Florida straw poll Sept. 24. That was taken as a response to Perry's weak debate performance and a tribute to Cain for showing up and speaking before the 2,657 people who voted.

But Republicans around the nation seem to have responded the same way. The Fox News poll conducted Sept. 25-27 showed Cain with 17 percent of the vote -- a statistically significant jump from the 5 percent he had been averaging in polls taken in previous weeks.

And a SurveyUSA poll of Florida Republicans conducted Sept. 24-27 showed Cain trailing Mitt Romney by only 27 to 25 percent, a statistical tie. That's very different from the Florida polls conducted by Public Policy Polling Sept. 22-25 and Quinnipiac Sept. 14-19, both of which showed Cain with 7 percent.

We will see whether other national or state polls show Cain with a similar surge. If so, then there's a real possibility that Cain could win enough primaries and caucuses to be a real contender.

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