Herman Cain: Can the Unconventional Become Presidential?

Oct 28, 2011 9:02am

ABC News’ Michael Falcone @michaelpfalcone and Amy Walter @amyewalter report:

Herman Cain does not abide.

He doesn’t spend most of his time in the traditional early primary states. He embraces bizarre Web videos, yet isn’t afraid to point out that “stupid people” are ruining America. He’s a Republican running for president whose campaign manager uses Obama guru David Plouffe’s book, “The Audacity to Win,” as a political bible.

To say that Cain’s presidential bid is unorthodox is an understatement, but his rise is real – at least for now.

Polls out this week showed him in a strong position nationally and in key states despite, as ABC’s Jonathan Karl pointed out on “Good Morning America” today, Cain’s visiting 18 states in the past month. But he has only made a precious three visits, combined, to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

“Cain did not earn those ratings by mobilizing precinct captains or putting up yard signs,” the National Journal’s Beth Reinhard wrote. “Consider this contradiction: A candidate who spends less time shaking hands in small-town diners and more time wearing a microphone in a television studio is viewed as more down to earth.”

If you he can figure out a way to combine his outsider appeal with seriousness of study, that would be a powerful combination. So if the question is, can he prove he’s presidential, what is he doing to show that to voters?

For one thing, his campaign now says, he’s going to take the go-slow approach to prevent some of the gaffes that have embarrassed Cain in the past few months.

“We’re trying to slow down a little bit, make sure he’s rested, make sure he’s focused,” J.D. Gordon, Cain’s chief spokesman, told the Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz. “The goal is to achieve a ‘more deliberate pace … so we don’t make those kinds of mistakes.’”

If Cain can get the discipline part down, there’s no telling how far he can go. The Washington Post’s Dan Balz traveled to Ohio earlier this week to report on a focus group moderated by pollster Peter Hart and returned struck by “the genuine interest expressed in Cain and his candidacy.”

“Time and again he rose to the top of the conversation about the Republican candidates. He was described in far more positive terms than either Perry or Romney,” Balz wrote. “When Hart asked the group who intrigued them most right now, no one came close to Cain in the number of mentions.”

Watch Jonathan Karl’s “Good Morning America” report on how Cain marches to his own drummer.

NOTED: ALL QUIET ON THE ROMNEY FRONT. Once again, we’re not talking about Mitt Romney’s strengths or weaknesses. And that’s just fine with the Romney campaign. They’re loving headlines like this one from the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake: “Mitt Romney: Unstoppable in New Hampshire?”

“[Unlike] Iowa, where voters seem genuinely undecided about picking a favorite, New Hampshire Republicans have installed Romney as the clear frontrunner in their primary — raising the question of just how competitive the Granite State race will be in 2012,” Cillizza and Blake write. “‘Romney is still the 800-pound gorilla,’ said Mike Dennehy, a Republican consultant who ran Arizona Sen. John McCain’s successful 2000 and 2008 New Hampshire primary campaigns. … While Romney may not be unbeatable, the path to an upset is steep — as made clear by two new independent polls that reveal the level of Romney’s current dominance.”

CAIN OPPOSES FEDERAL STUDENT AID. ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf catches this clip from Cain’s speech to an education conference in New York City yesterday: The day after President Obama said he’d be using executive authority to enable some students to refinance their loans, Herman Cain suggested to a forum on education that the federal government shouldn’t be involved at all. “I believe that if a state wants to help with college education, that they should do that,” Cain said. “Secondly, you have people living within communities within states that are willing to help fund those kinds of programs. So I do not believe that it is the responsibility of the federal government to help fund a college education because herein, our resources are limited and I believe that the best solution is the one closest to the problem. The people within the state, the people within the communities, ultimately, I believe, are the ones who have that responsibility.” Something on the order of 36 million Americans have federal student loan debt. http://abcn.ws/rze4ps

THIS WEEK ON “THIS WEEK”: MICHELE BACHMANN. The race for the Republican nomination is heating up. As Rick Perry plummets and Herman Cain overtakes Mitt Romney, can Michele Bachmann recapture the momentum that carried her to victory at the Iowa straw poll? Bachmann, R-Minn., comes to “This Week” and tells Christiane Amanpour about her plan to get back to the top of the pack. 

ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”:  ABC’s Jonathan Karl and Amy Walter chat about today’s top lines and don’t miss Karl’s interview with presidential candidate Michele Bachmann (preview below). Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://abcn.ws/toplineliveabc 

Bachmann: Reagan Didn’t Have a Flat Tax. The idea of a flat tax may be in vogue these days among conservatives, but Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., is not on board. ”Reagan didn’t have one tax rate,” Bachmann said in an interview the ABC News ”Subway Series with Jonathan Karl.“ “The principles that I’m borrowing from are Reagan’s.” What Bachmann wants, she says, is a flatter tax – fewer tax brackets and lower rates, but not the kind of  single-rate flat tax proposed, in various forms, by Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. “What my plan is to abolish the tax code and bring those rates down,” Bachmann said. “There will more information forthcoming but right now what I’m talking about are the principles. The principles are those that have worked.” How many brackets? What tax rates? She won’t say — at least not yet. http://abcn.ws/vjmTF1

THE BUZZ

OBAMA FINDS BUNDLER-LOBBYIST LOOPHOLE?Despite a pledge not to take money from lobbyists, President Obama has relied on prominent supporters who are active in the lobbying industry to raise millions of dollars for his re-election bid,” The New York Times’ Eric Lichtblau reports. “At least 15 of Mr. Obama’s ‘bundlers’ — supporters who contribute their own money to his campaign and solicit it from others — are involved in lobbying for Washington consulting shops or private companies. They have raised more than $5 million so far for the campaign. Because the bundlers are not registered as lobbyists with the Senate, the Obama campaign has managed to avoid running afoul of its self-imposed ban on taking money from lobbyists. But registered or not, the bundlers are in many ways indistinguishable from people who fit the technical definition of a lobbyist. They glide easily through the corridors of power in Washington, with a number of them hosting Mr. Obama at fund-raisers while also visiting the White House on policy matters and official business.”

OBAMA CAMP COUNTER-PROGRAMMING. “Throughout his career in public service, the President has worked to limit the outsized influence that lobbyists and special interests have over the policymaking process. A story in today’s New York Times misses the forest for the trees, obscuring the President’s long history of advancing ethics and government reform and brushing right past his opponents’ records with nothing but a shrug,” Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt writes in a response to The Times. “From the first day he announced he was running for President, Barack Obama hasn’t accepted a dime from federal lobbyists or political action committees (PACs). He led the way in disclosing major volunteer fundraisers for his campaign, disclosing both the names of the individuals who raise money for the campaign as well as the levels of contributions that they raise.” http://bit.ly/uXYozd

GOP WEIGHS IN:  “Today we learned we were all duped by another false campaign pledge from President Obama.  Like many of his promises, they were just more words in a desperate attempt to say anything to win the election,” Republican National Committee Press Secretary Kirsten Kukowski said in a statement.

THE NOTE’S TAKE: This issue of railing against Washington while taking their money has long frustrated those that work the corridors of power here. And, says one longtime lobbyist, it was Obama’s dismissal of the practiced hands of DC policy and politics that ultimately led to his poor relationships with Capitol Hill . He came in to change Washington, this insider told The Note, but he should have used the levers of Washington to deliver the change he campaigned for.

WHO ARE THE 2012 REPUBLICAN VOTERS? The National Journal’s Ron Brownstein digs through the polls: “An analysis of tens of thousands of nightly Gallup tracking-poll interviews shows that the Republican primary electorate that will choose the party’s 2012 presidential nominee may look very much like the GOP’s voter base in 2008 — with some potentially important changes at the margin. In this cycle, the Gallup trends suggest, the primaries could see an increase in both the youngest and oldest participants and a rise in the share of conservative voters. … In most respects, the analysis underscored the durability of the attributes that define the Republican electorate. ‘We are not seeing a lot of major changes in the composition of people who identify as Republicans,’ said Gallup Poll Editor in Chief Frank Newport. ‘And they remain highly different than the population [overall].’ As in 2008, the Republican coalition today is tilted toward men. Four years ago, men constituted 54 percent of self-identified Republicans and women made up 46 percent. Now the breakdown is 53 percent and 47 percent The GOP coalition also remains preponderantly white. Whites constituted exactly 87 percent of Republican supporters in winter 2008; now it’s 86.7 percent. African-Americans have increased as a share of GOP supporters only from 2 percent to 2.7 percent; Hispanics’ representation rose from 6.6 percent to 7.2 percent.” More from Brownstein’s analysis of the GOP electorate: http://bit.ly/vFeu50

PERRY ENDORSER FLIP-FLOPS TO ROMNEY. “The New Hampshire Union Leader has learned that eight-term state Rep. Norman Major, R-Plaistow, who backed Perry just more than a month ago, is now with Romney,” reports the New Hampshire Union-Leader’s John DiStaso. “‘When I met Perry, I listened to him and he represented all the things I wanted to see accomplished,” Major said. ‘He accomplished a lot in the state of Texas, but as I saw him in the debates and how he handles himself, I realized he isn’t going to beat Obama.’ Major said Perry “has a lot of good credentials, but I guess he needs to go through what Romney went through last time and get that experience of running for President. That way he will be more presidential and think more nationally.” http://bit.ly/uaz86g

HERMAN CAIN’S LONGEST-SERVING AIDE CALLS IT QUITS. “GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain’s longest serving aide is leaving his surging campaign, even as the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO polls in the top tier of the Republican field,” according to the Daily Caller’s Alex Pappas. “Executive assistant Karleen Smith has worked for Cain since he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004. In an email to TheDC, she said her departure from the Cain campaign has long been in the works. ‘My husband retired in July and I am 59,’ Smith said. ‘My husband and I have been planning this retirement for awhile. We are ‘young seniors’ and ready to travel across the U.S.’” http://thedc.com/sgjf6y

WHITE HOUSE WATCH: From ABC’s Mary Bruce: President Obama and the First Lady attend parent-teacher conferences at Sidwell Friends School this morning. Obama will spend the rest of the day behind closed-doors. In the afternoon, at 4 pm he will meet with Secretary of State Clinton. This evening the president will attend a Diwali reception in the   Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@ron_fournier: Look who’s running for president: bit.ly/uD3WXz #2012Decoded

@jmartpolitico: Daley on diffs tween he and Rahm: I’m not going to become the leaker in chief” dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm…

@DavidMDrucker: RT @mikememoli There is life outside NH? Huntsman making 3-day trip to SC late next week

@Timodc: I’m bringing 8 scarves to New Hampshire for the winter, what of it.

@RayLaHood: New @stopthetexts campaign launched with striking PSAs by@NHTSAgov@AdCouncil bit.ly/uSMDxS #dwd #dd #texting

 

POLITICAL RADAR: 

* Mitt Romney holds a town hall meeting at The Executive Court in Manchester, NH.

* Herman Cain campaigns in Alabama. He holds a Tea Party breakfast reception at Cane Creek Golf Club in McClellan, a rally at the Talladega Town Square, attends a Rainy Day Patriots Rally in Birmingham among other events.

* Rick Perry will file for president in Concord, NH. He will also speak at luncheon at Barley House in Concord.

* Michele Bachmann campaigns in Iowa, holding a town hall meeting in Davenport, touring a company in Muscatine and attending a town hall meeting in Burlington.

* Ron Paul speaks to the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce in Nashua, NH and holds a town hall meeting in Hampstead, NH.

* Newt Gingrich campaigns in South Carolina, holding a lunch discussion at Chick-Fil-A Restaurant in Greenvile and he will be the keynote speaker at the Aiken Republican Club Dinner at the Houndslake Country in Aiken, SC.

* Rick Santorum will be the special guest as a fundraiser in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Check out The Note’s Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV

 

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* For breaking political news and analysis check out The Note blog: http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenote/and ABCNews.com/Politics: http://abcnews.com/politics

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