The landslide victory by Herman Cain at the Florida straw poll on Saturday rocked the media and political establishment. But for those in the grassroots and observers of the movement, his win comes as hardly a shock. What does Mr. Cain’s rise mean?
Much of the analysis of yesterday’s events is being filtered through the lens of race. If you look at the story line being put forth by the media, the Georgia businessman’s win proves once and for all that the Tea Party is not racist. But I would argue that this is a false narrative. The only reason his victory comes as a surprise to anyone has more to do with the mainstream media’s repeated underestimation of the Tea Party and not because of racial politics.
What Mr. Cain’s straw poll victory tells me is a couple things: 1) The GOP field is hardly settled and the race is wide open and 2) the Tea Party, not the media nor the Republican establishment, will determine the candidate in this election. PJTV has been following Mr. Cain’s candidacy (as well as the Tea Party) since it’s early days. On several occasions, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Cain and watching him on the stump around the country — from CPAC in Washington, D.C.; to the Smart Girl Summit in St. Louis; to Freedom Fest in Las Vegas (video here); and at Congressman Steve King’s conference in Des Moines.
What struck me about Mr. Cain in his appearances was his ability to connect with the crowd and deliver a clear message about his vision of the proper role of government. Mr. Cain has a presence that is able to captivate his audience and evoke a response — many times cheers and applause — in instances where many other candidates fall flat. (In fact, the two candidates I’ve seen do this well are Mr. Cain and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.) This observation is illustrated in Mr. Cain’s continually strong Gallup positive intensity scores. The latest measure shows Mr. Cain tied with Texas Governor Rick Perry at the top of the heap. The reason Mr. Cain is doing well right now is because his message is one that is resonating with voters. He has one intangible quality that many of the Republican candidates sorely lack: authenticity.