John Baer: Cain wins GOP's latest 'poll vault'

Herman Cain topped Florida's straw poll Saturday, thus winning the GOP's latest round of musical chairs.
Herman Cain topped Florida's straw poll Saturday, thus winning the GOP's latest round of musical chairs. (Associated Press)
Posted: September 26, 2011

WATCHING Republicans stagger through their candidate-selection process is like watching kids at a birthday party play Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

They're blindfolded, so you never know where the pin gets stuck.

How else to explain Saturday's surprise win of pizza king Herman Cain in Florida's straw poll?

It extends a GOP pattern that says: Look, we have no idea what we want, except we want anybody but that socialist Muslim tax-and-spend usurper in the White House. Oh, and we don't care what our candidate knows, says or thinks as long as he or she is patriotic, loud, angry or maybe a little crazy.

Take Cain. An African-American, pro-life, tea-party favorite, Cain claims that the media are "scared that a real black man may run against Barack Obama." I don't even know what that means.

He also claims that Planned Parenthood was founded to "kill black babies before they come into the world." I'm pretty sure that's not the case.

Still, the 65-year-old former CEO of Godfather's Pizza won the Florida poll with 37 percent of 2,657 votes cast, lifting him, however briefly, to a level of credibility.

Question is: Does it change his status, which I'd roughly describe as "are you kidding me," to one in which GOP voters say "hey, let's take a look"?

Like his "9-9-9" tax plan (9 percent flat tax on people, businesses and sales), I'm thinking the answer is: Nein, nein, nein.

But the roller-coaster pattern of the Republican race is interesting.

In a matter of weeks, party voters embraced Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who won the Iowa straw poll only last month. Then they "poll-vaulted" Texas Gov. Rick Perry into the front-runner slot. Now they've elevated Cain in Florida.

What's next?

The fact-challenged Bachmann is already over, despite her innovative - and, I imagine, popular - plan to do away with taxes.

(In last Thursday's Orlando debate, she said wage-earners shouldn't pay taxes: "You should get to keep every dollar you earn. That's your money. That's not the government's money."

Not sure how she gets her $174,000 congressional salary if there are no taxes, but I'm certainly willing to listen.)

Perry's skyrocket now is suspect after experiencing a major malfunction during Thursday's debate. He seemed both intellect- and oxygen-deprived, unable to form or finish sentences, unwilling to appear animated.

And Cain's electability will be seriously questioned when a new round of fundraising reports are made public in just a few weeks.

Where does this leave the GOP?

"Saturday Night Live" began its 37th season over the weekend with a skit based on a GOP debate. Show host Alec Baldwin did a devastating caricature of Perry as tongue-tied and exhausted.

The debate was billed as Perry vs. Mitt Romney with "six other people who'll never be president but showed up anyway."

During the skit, Romney was the least scorched. The actor playing him admitted to not being the perfect candidate but "the perfect candidate compared to the other candidates."

Humor is funniest when it's the truth.

For all his faults as plastic/rich guy/policy flip-flopper, Romney has a combination of experience and fundraising ability unmatched by others in the race.

He might not be as loud, angry or nuts as many in the party would like. But barring some late-game "Hail Christie" pass involving the governor of New Jersey, Republicans eventually will turn to Mitt - once they've finished raising Cain.

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