Herman Cain is for real, folks. Results just in from the Western Republican Leadership Conference Straw Poll of presidential candidates shows Cain (31%) squeaking past Mitt Romney (29). In third is the fast-rising Newt Gingrich (20) followed by Ron Paul (10), Rick Perry (4) and Michele Bachmann (1).
Rick Santorum, evidently, did not scratch. Should he and Bachmann – whose New Hampshire staff just quit en masse – be invited to the next debate or are they just a distraction? Do they have any more right to appear than Gary Johnson – or you or me or anybody else at this point? Doesn’t seem like it.
Meanwhile, the news is bad for Perry. On top of a measly 4% showing in this Nevada Straw Poll, the latest Rasmussen poll shows him down to Obama 44 to 36. Contrast with the recent Rasmussen poll showing Cain topping Obama in a close race.
This reflects a dip from Perry’s attack dog stance toward Romney at the Las Vegas Debate when he accused Mitt of hiring an illegal alien gardener. In the short run it has clearly played badly. My esteemed PJM colleague Bryan Preston thinks in the long run this strategy will prove out, administering a wound to Romney that will outweigh the self-inflicted wound to Perry.
I am skeptical. Reason: times have changed. Winston Churchill’s old nostrum about a lie getting around the world before the truth can pull on its pants isn’t so true anymore. Not in this see-all, know-all Internet age. While the ‘net makes negative campaigning easy to do, it also makes it even easier to see. We all know what’s up almost simultaneously. Fingers were wagging at Perry the moment he pulled his maneuver (the audience booed). We know too much now. That’s a good thing.
Of course, the winners here, in the short run at least, are Cain and Gingrich, who avoided this kind of game.
My guess is Perry will pull out of this to some extent, but his advisers may have done him a disservice. Any, his jobs plan is here. That’s what the candidate – and his people – should be focussing on. He’s also got a flat tax proposal that should be compared with Cain’s.