Cain to Debate Newt: What Is Herman Thinking?

Polls show Herman Cain as the frontrunner, and things are going his way. Now, he has agreed to a “modified Lincoln-Douglas”-style debate with Newt Gingrich, where Cain has little to gain and a lot to lose.

On November 5, Gingrich and Cain will go mano-a-mano in a debate about entitlement reform, with no moderator and only a timekeeper from the Texas Tea Party Patriots. “It will be divided into parts, one for each major entitlement -- Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid -- with each candidate detailing their arguments,” says Bill O’Sullivan, the treasurer of the group. Obviously, the candidates will find ways to bring up other issues if they believe it to be advantageous.

Gingrich’s campaign says it will be respectful, and he will contrast his proposals with Cain “in a friendly way.” There will probably not be any heated, interruption-filled confrontations as happened between Romney, Perry, and Santorum during the last debate.

This debate is a blessing from Cain upon Gingrich. Whereas Cain has frontrunner status, Gingrich is in third place. He is steep in debt and unable to purchase the advertising he needs to be considered a top-tier candidate. The media still isn’t giving him much attention. He’s done well in the debates, but is restrained by the presence of seven other candidates on the stage. Gingrich needs to take away from Cain’s support, or he has no chance of winning. Now, he gets  to take on Cain -- and only Cain -- in the forum that best suits Gingrich.

What does Cain have to gain? It is possible he could best Gingrich and take some of his support, but this is an unnecessary gamble. Cain could simply wait as the right-of-Romney vote coalesces around him and Gingrich’s campaign suffocates. Cain is in a strong position to become the sole alternative to Romney, and if he does he probably wins the nomination.

An important fact that is being overlooked: Cain was hammered in the last debate, yet his support hasn’t dropped at all.