Cain’s conquest makes consultants quiver

The audience roared when Cain talked of his 9-9-9 plan for reforming the nation’s tax code, and when he fingered establishment stooge Romney for failing to give a straight answer to the question about who on the stage he would consider worthy to be selected as his vice president

Why Herman Cain won, and why you might see Rick Perry in Mickey Mouse slippers next week

By Chris Ingram

Herman Cain’s upset victory in the Republican Party of Florida’s straw poll has political watchers wondering what happened; but the explanation is rather simple.

Caption: God, please give my pollsters the wisdom they need to help me.

Before explaining the Cain factor, back up a few weeks to the Iowa straw poll where soon-to-be-former candidate Michelle Bachman won that state’s less meaningful poll. But despite Iowa’s “sold to the highest bidder” reputation, the win for Bachman was an upset the more established candidates shouldn’t have ignored. How does a wingnut, fringe candidate with little money and even less sense appeal to enough people to win?

Although flawed, Iowa’s straw poll can’t be completley discounted as irrelevant. Creating a following takes money, and money only comes when people believe in something you are saying.

Bachmann’s Iowa victory and brief moments in the limelight came because despite the fact that she’s nuttier than a pecan pie, she communicates her rhetoric in a manner that is real. In other words, she believes her nonsense. And so did enough other believers who share her views and sent her some money.

But the frontrunners didn’t believe that the believers are looking for someone who is also a believer. Translation: voters are looking for someone who calls a socialist president a socialist, not whatever euphemistic poll-tested answer Mitt Romney calls President Obama.

Mitt and Rick didn’t get the post-Iowa message and continued operating their campaigns how their D.C. handlers told them to run.

Fast forward to last Thursday night at the GOP debate in Orlando. The two establishment candidates Romney and Perry engaged in little more than platitudes about their plans for the nation, and a few barbs at the other guy (or attempted barbs as in Perry’s case) for good measure.  Meanwhile, a few podiums to the right Herman Cain was delivering honest answers to serious questions.

The audience roared when Cain talked of his 9-9-9 plan for reforming the nation’s tax code, and when he fingered establishment stooge Romney for failing to give a straight answer to the question about who on the stage he would consider worthy to be selected as his vice president.

Romney of course did everything right that night. He gave short, sound bite ready answers to most questions; he smiled uncomfortably when he didn’t really want to smile; and he limited details of his ideas and referred voters to some obscure campaign manifesto that serves as good cover for having real plans and intellect in a TV-driven media environment. Yes, Romney did everything right – if you like poll tested sound bites and politicians who do everything the way it has always been done.

Enter Herman Cain

On the stage at the debate, nine people stood with scores of years of experience in elective office. Among them, Herman Cain was the only one who has never been elected to office. Not once. Never. Not even for the proverbial dog catcher. Herman Cain is not a career politician.

In fact, Cain’s lack of experience is an asset, because despite their good intentions, every politician no matter the size, scope, or importance of the office is in some way, shape or form, corrupted by their power, however limited said power may be. That corruption serves to make them think they are invincible, above the law, and omnipotent. To make matter worse, while being corrupted, they get surrounded by people who worship them and tell them how good their bad breath smells, and they pass laws exempting themselves from the laws they make us live by — like going through airport security for example (Congressmen are exempt).

Meanwhile the pollsters, political strategists and media consultants advise the candidates on everything from what color tie to wear, not to wear their expensive watch, what shoes to wear, how to smile (and when not to smile), how to walk, how to shake hands, when to look at your opponent during a debate (in Perry’s case they must have told him never), and so on.

Somewhere during the how-to-appear sessions, they get briefed on what to say and how to say it. This boils down to bullet points on issues such as taxes, foreign policy and defense, Social Security, and education reform. “Zinger” lines like the one neophyte to the national stage Gary Johnson delivered on Thursday night (about his neighbor’s two dogs creating more shovel ready jobs than Barack Obama) are usually poll tested, practiced, refined and then practiced again and again so that they become as rote as Santa Clause saying “Ho! Ho! Ho!”

Johnson’s line by the way, while true, wasn’t exactly Johnson’s line. According to Johnson, a radio station in his home state was soliciting zingers for Johnson to consider all week leading up to the debate. A creative listener sent in the “my neighbor’s two dogs” line to the station which forwarded it and others to the Johnson campaign (which probably consists solely of Gary Johnson). He liked it and made it work. And the only thing different about Johnson and the line’s “authenticity” or “in-authenticity “ as the case may be, is Johnson was completely honest about how he got it. If Romney or Perry had delivered that line they would have never owned up to having gotten the line from a radio station listener.

In his delivery of the line, Johnson read most of it, but despite not being prepared to dish it out off the cuff, he found the right moment, and read it with great affect. Sometimes candidates can be over-practiced and rehearsed. This was the case with Rick Perry’s failed attempt to nail Mitt Romney as the biggest flip-flopper in the GOP (which he is by the way).

The Cain difference

Understanding how it normally works helps understand why Herman Cain was so successful. He rejected a lot of the traditional advice candidates receive, and then take, while lying down like an obedient dog waiting for its master to drop a Milk Bone on the floor.

I’m not suggesting Cain doesn’t have pollsters, consultants and people who think they know a lot more about how to get elected than he does on his staff. But the fact that he says, does, and delivers a lot more substance than fluff tells me Cain must have been one hell of a CEO who marched to his own drum – and apparently a lot of GOP activists in Florida are itching for someone to represent them in the White House who isn’t a polished, overly coiffed, poll-tested Hollywood version of what a presidential candidate ought to look like.

There were two such individuals on the stage last Thursday night and thanks to Herman Cain, they’re licking their wounds and trying to figure out how to be more like the Cain-ernator. Trouble is, voters would see through their bull when at the next debate if Mitt Romney’s hair was what actually grey, not Grecian formula black. Or if Rick Perry’s pollster told him voters prefer Mickey Mouse bedroom slippers over cowboy boots when on the campaign trail, guess what Rick Perry would be wearing at the next debate? Fortunately voters appear to be getting smarter.

Thanks for being the real deal Mr. Cain. That’s why you won the straw poll.

Chris Ingram is the president and founder of 411 Communications a corporate and political communications firm, and publisher of Irreverent View. Ingram is a frequent pundit on Fox News and CNN, and has written opinion columns for the Washington Times, UPI, and National Review online. He is the Republican political analyst for Bay News 9, the only 24 hour all news channel in Florida’s largest media market. The opinions expressed here are those of author and do not represent the views of Bay News 9. E-mail him

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18 thoughts on “Cain’s conquest makes consultants quiver”

  1. People are sick of hearing the same old b.s. Empty promises. Cain has got a plan which may or may not work but at least he has a plan.


  2. Your break down is right on target, Chris. And hopefully, as you say, The voters appear to be getting smarter. Mark’s comment above is what our candidates should be giving us, and not the fluff their Yes Men feed them. That’s what Americans want right now.


  3. Now that you’ve fell in love with the Cain sound bites…his job at Godfather’s/BBF…how about researching the “Real Deal”? Haven’t we already seen the results of “more shine than substance? How much managerial accomplishemnt does Cain’s corporate associates give him? It will take a lot more than glib, glamour, and empty slogans to bring the US back from B.O.Zero.


  4. And wathching the GOP leadership on tv shows today it was evident this has been a setback. They speak the talk of wanting to be all inclusive, as long as the minority does not win. The head of the GOP was could not put his thoughts together and Governor Scott what happened about the comment that the road to the White House goes through Florida. When you bosom buddy Rick Perry goes up in flames it’s the winner is Herman Cain…wait and no comment that Florida’s next choice for President is Herman Cain.
    Crhis your comment about being a good CEO is right on and Godfather’s Pizaa as good.


  5. The RPOF once again triesd to tell us “what is best for us”. When are they going to learn that they can’t pick the winners and losers. They blame Obama for doing it and then I walk in and see nothing but “Perry” signs by Presidency 5 banners all over the complex and my cell phone, home phone, and any other personal information used and abused for over a month.

    Instead of spending thousands on slick mail pieces and robo calls every hour on the hour, why not prepare your candidate and let us decide. The party got just what it a deserved ” a punch in the nose”. Didn’t you learn from that Senate race that you don’t get pick our winner for us – WE DO!


  6. You nailed it, Chris.

    I’m totally sick of being given the hand picked choice from on high– the establichment’s boy, the slick, over-handled, poll driven “best bet.” I want a real person who at least gives the impression that they are speaking off the cuff, from the heart, truthfully..their own words, their own self. I get that from Cain. So far, he’s my choice. I like his ideas. Romney is a slick robo-candidate; no thank you. Perry is just not good enough. I like Newt and he’s smart as a whip but I don’t think he would get elected. We need someone on the ballot with a clear message, someone with ooomph…Cain’s got it. The fact that’s he has not held office is a huge plus.


  7. You’re right on the money, Chris. What a great article. I liked Herman Cain when I first heard him debate in South Carolina, which I believe Frank Luntz and his focus group said Cain came out on top. By the way, good job covering the event in Orlando, you always call them like you see them!


  8. Frankly, Cain cannot beat Obama and it doesn’t matter how far out we are from November 2012. Secondly, Florida’s straw poll isn’t indicative of how many other Republican states are going to vote: count on it. Cain’s message is great, but people want to see it come from Perry or Romney. If Perry improves his debating skills, look to see Perry get a commanding lead (not a temporary jump) in the race.


  9. How spot on …your Cain article. I was there and voted….and yes, I did vote for Herman. He has solutions that I wish were in placed YESTERDAY.


  10. The “ponzi scheme” stuff, which is a great sound bite that I think many in Florida must have recognized as at least a very flawed description of a program around as long as SS has been, might have contributed to things as much as Cain’s sincerity. If Bachman’s Iowa victory was a message, and now Cain’s Florida victory is also a message, to whom are the messages aimed, and why? Both Perry and Romney seem plastic to me. “Ken dolls” is used too much, but along those lines. They both might have some good ideas — in fact, I think they do — but as you note, they are so mediated by consultants that all good ideas either come out as too vague to be recognizable or as offensive to the extremists. So, if the message is aimed at them, what can they do. I don’t think they can change, because we’ve partisanshipped ourselves into a tiny little corner without much maneuvering room. If Obama and democrats were on the campaign trail we’d probably see a lot of the same. Obama ran on principles last time, but it will be much tougher for him to do so again. I’m not sure what he’s going to run on. I’m sure you can come up with a list of things the Republicans can run on, but who, given the results of the two straw polls (credible or not) can offer what’s on that list who can win the whole thing and who is in the race now? Best to draft the perfect candidate at or near the convention so he/she can run without having to undergo public scrutiny enough to expose any flaws.
    Then, he/she can run against only Obama, which should be a piece of cake. Of course, it sort of undermines the system, but what’s new in that!

    As to $16 muffins — that’s about what hotels charge for the whole break, which often includes muffins. I’m trying to get a grant in for working with the press in Tunisia, and, guess what the major hotel in Tunis charges for the coffee break (but, I don’t know what all it
    includes) — yep, $16. Must be a universal figure, and probably not just the muffin.


  11. I’m sick of hearing “Cain can’t beat Obama”… I call BS! I don’t see a reason in the world Cain cannot beat Obama. I can just see him debating Obama mano a mano…black man against black man. It would really work. Cain would whup his butt.
    Cain can win. It’s the warmed over retreads who can’t!


  12. Bachman + Cain = Palin in the Race

    PS Chris’s description of Bachman shows his “consultant” biases.
    The grassroots knows we are on the verge of economic collapse. No matter WHO wins in 2012 the SHTF,and a true constitutional steady hand is required at the helm.


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