Monday, December 5, 2011

Lessons from Herman Cain

In case you spent the weekend away from all news sources, Herman Cain officially ended his presidential campaign last Saturday. There is no need to beat a dead horse about the allegations that caused the end of his campaign, but I do want to raise a few points about what the remaining candidates can learn from Herman Cain's experiences.

First, the majority of Republicans are looking for a good debater with a good personality who is a true conservative. The first item is what took down Perry's campaign and allowed Herman Cain to briefly rise to the top. The second is what set Cain apart from the rest of the pack: his charm, charisma, and wit certainly attracted many voters who were fleeing Perry's campaign. The last item explains why no amount of debate skill and personality will help Mitt Romney pick up these voters. Candidates will make mistakes, but consistently poor debating, a snobbish personality, or moderate positions in the past will not attract most of the remaining undecided voters.

Second, this is not a single-issue campaign. Cain's campaign ran on one idea: fix the economy with his 9-9-9 plan. While we can debate whether or not his plan would have been the best way to fix our economic woes, the economy is not the only issue voters care about. Cain's best answer to foreign policy questions was always that he would assemble a team to advise him. This is certainly not a novel idea: if elected, he would be the 45th president to do so. Americans know that the president is going to assemble a team of advisers to assist him; however, they also want to have an idea of what the president will do when he receives the emergency alert at 3:30 AM and does not have the time to assemble those advisers before making the decision. From what I heard Cain say, the decision would have to wait until his advisers gave him their opinions, no matter how critical the emergency.

Third, Cain's problems with most voters stemmed not from the allegations, but the response (or lack thereof) to those allegations. Cain's campaign knew for 10 days that the first sexual harassment allegations were going to be run, but the campaign's response was to act as if they had been blindsided by this news. However, the campaign should not have even waited until Politico contacted them in order to prepare a response. The truth is that Cain was certainly aware of the allegations and should have known that they would be unearthed somewhere along the way, so why did his staff not have a battle plan prepared well in advance?

Fourth, it must be understood that in this campaign, nothing will be kept secret. We may never find out who fed the original allegations to the press: they may have come from another Republican, or they may have come from the Obama campaign. Either way, any front-runner should be prepared to face any skeletons that he or she might have in the closet. If they are not revealed by the time the nominee is chosen, the Chicago political machine will bring them out just in time for the general election.

Even though Cain's campaign is over, there are still lessons that the other candidates should heed. I hope, for the sake of Cain and his family, that the allegations made against him are not true. However, the other candidates would be wise to take a look at his campaign as a way of fixing their own problems.

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