GOP special delivery: Herman Cain on top?

Herman Cain gets saucy at the Republican debate.
ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES

Tuesday’s GOP debate confirmed it: A new force — the Herminator — has entered U.S. politics. Pizza entrepreneur Herman Cain, once dismissed as a political joke, is the surprise Republican front-runner.

Recent polls show Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, ahead of presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney. That’s a gigantic leap for Cain, a man with almost no political experience or name power, who began his campaign with a tiny war chest.

But the fact that Cain is so different from the other Republican candidates works in his favor. He’s the outsider who speaks bluntly and presents unconventional ideas. Though his 999 tax plan, which would slash the income tax rate to 9 percent, has been condemned by tax experts, it has become the campaign’s most recognized policy proposal.

By contrast, Mitt Romney has statesman-like looks and a well-funded campaign, but has been unable to formulate his policies in a catchy way. Rick Perry, another presumed front-runner, has damaged his campaign with a number of serious gaffes. And Michele Bachman has seen her Tea Party supporters defect to the Herminator camp.

Even so, the political elite doesn’t view Cain, a Baptist pastor and part-time radio host, as a serious contender. And as a libertarian Republican, he hasn’t endeared himself to his fellow African-Americans. Singer Harry Belafonte recently called Cain, the son of a cleaning-woman and a janitor from Tennessee, a “false Negro.”

Most likely, Cain won’t win the Republican nomination. But Mr. Straight Talk will have set a new tone in the Republican Party.


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