Tuesday’s GOP debate confirmed it: a new force, called the Herminator, has entered U.S. politics.

Pizza entrepreneur Herman Cain, once dismissed as a political joke, is the surprise Republican frontrunner.

Recent surveys show Cain, the former CEO of pizza chain 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 [campaign funds].

But the fact that Cain is so different from the other Republican candidates works in his favour. He’s the outsider who speaks bluntly – he’s an excellent speaker – and presents unconventional ideas. Though his 999 tax plan, which would slash the income tax rate to 9%, 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 frontrunner, has damaged his campaign with a number of serious gaffes. This summer he accused Fed [Central Bank] Chairman Ben Bernanke of treachery. 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 White House 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, as 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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