2012 Election, Minnick

The Way It Works

The Press Plays Its Role

Herman Cain is rising in the polls faster than a double crust pepperoni in a hot oven. Add some extra cheese. This guy has the Big Mo. The not always reliable, but always worth a headline Zogby Poll puts him at the head of the GOP pack at 45%. Newsweek has him on the cover this week. What is going on here? Herman Cain?

The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO, talk show host, author and inspirational speaker is having his 15 minutes of presidential fame. All of a sudden Cain is Able, as one headline says. But hold the phone. What is really happening is part of the never ending cycle of an American presidential campaign. The press builds up a candidate and then takes him (or her) back to earth. You heard it here first: Herman Cain will not be the Republican candidate for president.

Cain is just the latest of the GOP wannabees to get the big build-up followed by the rapid slump. Remember Michelle Bachmann? You know your campaign is on life support when you use your lifeline call to get The Donald on the line as she did yesterday in a telephone town hall meeting. Rick Perry went from swaggering Texas governor to immediate front runner to “can he recover” in six weeks. The only question for Cain is how fast the fall?

The GOP candidates debate again tonight in Las Vegas and, I suspect, the storyline from the face-off in Sin City will be that Cain was roughed up and Mitt Romney, the guy who is still most likely to win the GOP nomination, escaped another debate without a scratch.

There is an inevitable rhythm to the coverage of a presidential nominating process. Most everyone – not Ron Paul, however – gets a test run as the candidate on the rise and then the questions begin. Does the guy’s tax plan stand real review? Does he know anything about foreign policy? Is neoconservative in his vocabulary? In Cain’s case it’s hard to believe his much repeated “9-9-9” tax plan can vault him to the nomination when the arbiter of GOP tax acceptability, Grover Norquist, pronounces it “very dangerous.”

Bachmann had her moment and then her comments got the best of her. Perry had his moment and then the jokes began: “this dog is too dumb to hunt” and “Perry’s problem is he suffers from Mad Cowboy Disease.” The Herman Cain moment is upon us. Enjoy it while it lasts. This guy has the staying power of a extra large on a Saturday night in a frat house.

Mitt Romney is the guy who just keeps hanging around and for good reason. He has at least least three things going for him that Cain, Bachmann, Perry, Huntsman and the rest do not. Romney has actually run and won in a tough political environment. Republicans don’t normally find Massachusetts friendly territory. Romney won a statewide race there. He’s done this presidential thing before. Yes, he lost to John McCain in 2008, but he’s been through the primary meat grinder and the rest of the field has not. Finally, his flexible positions on several issues notwithstanding – respected political analyst Charlie Cook says Romney is “unencumbered by principles” – Romney has obviously thought seriously about the big issues. He may be flexible, but he is not dumb.

So, enjoy the pizza man’s moment. It’ll be fleeting. Romney is the man the White House has come to fear and when all the smoke clears about the time Super Tuesday rolls around in March, I’ll bet an extra meat and cheese takeaway, that Mitt is the Man.

There is an inevitability to Romney, too, just as there is the inevitable rise and fall of the rest of the field. Charlie Cook notes that in every presidential election since 1944, Republicans have turned to the candidate who “is next in line.” The Tea Party doesn’t like him, he’s stiff and there are those flip-flops, but Romney is next in line. Soon enough it will dawn on the Republican primary voter that he also has the best chance to take back the White House for the GOP.