Can Herman Cain Build on His Straw Poll Win?
Policy + Politics

Can Herman Cain Build on His Straw Poll Win?

AP Photo/John Raoux

GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, who jolted Republican presumptions by decisively winning a Florida straw poll on Saturday, is looking for a big week ahead to keep his momentum going.

The Atlanta native and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, a national restaurant chain he says he transformed “from the verge of bankruptcy into a household name,” grabbed more than 37 percent of the straw-poll votes, beating out both Texas Governor Rick Perry, the presumed winner, as well as former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Cain has also grabbed a bigger share of the political spotlight as the GOP candidates continue to hammer away at the Obama administration on the economy, deficit reduction, and taxes.

Among the events Cain hopes will further stoke his candidacy: On September 30, Cain is scheduled to address the National Rifle Association convention in Washington.

Then on October 4, his new book, This Is Herman Cain!, will be released by Threshold Editions, the conservative imprint of Simon & Schuster. Emphasizing in the book’s publicity materials that he’s “an outside-the-Beltway candidate,” a “down-to-earth political newcomer,” and a “straight-talking man of the people with blunt assessments of what America needs,” Cain will kick off his national book tour on October 2, at Atlanta’s 57th Fighter Group restaurant near the city’s DeKalb-Peachtree Airport.

“Cain will have more than his 15 minutes of fame,” says Democratic political consultant Brad Bannon. In “a CBS/New York Times national survey of GOP primary voters a few weeks ago, Cain was the candidate best positioned to be the anti-Romney if Perry faltered, which he did in the debate last week.”

“I think many Republicans would love to nominate a conservative black. Now the former CEO will have to face the inevitable media onslaught,” Bannon says. “Cain is a successful businessman, which is great in a bad economy. He can also self-finance most of his campaign.”

This morning on Fox News Sunday, Cain said: ‘The takeaway from Florida is that number one, the citizens movement is more powerful than the Establishment wants to give me credit for. So yes, they keep treating me like the Rodney Dangerfield of this primary contest. The voters, the people out in the field, are saying we want to send a message to Washington, D.C. The Establishment is not going to make this call. The people are going to make the call, and that’s what you saw in the Florida straw poll.”

In his new book, Cain asks rhetorically, “What is it in my DNA that years ago prompted me to forgo the ease of cruise control and take on the enormous challenge of doing my part toward making America a better place for my granddaughter and the generations to come? Why do I, a son of the segregated South, refuse to think of myself as a ‘victim’ of racism? What is it that motivates me to insist on defining my identity in terms of ‘ABC’ — as being American first, black second, and Conservative third? Just a hint: It may have had something to do with lessons learned from my parents, Lenora and Luther Cain, Jr.”

According to his book’s pre-publication promotion, Cain’s parents made a living “the only way black people could in the ‘40s and ‘50s: Luther held down three jobs, including being a chauffeur,” while Lenora cleaned houses. Their dreams were to purchase a house and watch their sons graduate from college. “With dedication and hard work, they made both these dreams come true,” says the promotional materials. 

Beyond the rhetoric and his appearances in the televised GOP candidates’ debates, Cain is still largely unknown to many Americans. He’s been chiefly pushing his “999 Plan” on tax reform, which begins with a 25 percent limit on personal and business taxes, then moves to a 9 percent flat tax for businesses and individuals and a 9 percent national sales tax.

So his book and his campaign appearances from here on, will be looked at closely. On his website, Cain says, “Currently, the federal government taxes too much and too often. Meaningful tax reform should be implemented immediately to alleviate that suffocating tax burden placed on businesses and individuals in America. This means across-the-board tax cuts to provide long-term relief, including reducing the capital gains tax, suspending taxes on repatriated profits, and permanently eliminating the death tax.”