The arguments for why Herman Cain won’t be the Republican presidential nominee, even if he’s popular, are straightforward. He has little history with the Republican Party establishment and shallow relationships with GOP activists on the state and local level. He lacks an on-the-ground campaign in the early primary states, and he’s devoted his time to states like Alabama—irrelevant to the nomination contest but a fine venue for selling books. Indeed, Cain’s upcoming visit to Iowa—the state he has to win or do well in to have a shot at the nomination—is his first since mid-October. Serious candidates tend to spent a lot more time in “make or break” states.
At the moment, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is surging in the polls. In the latest survey of Republican voters from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, Gingrich earns 22 percent support, a 5 point increase from his previous performance. The reasons for his newfound popularity aren’t hard to grok; the once-ascendent Herman Cain is embroiled in a sexual-harassment scandal, and Rick Perry has alienated consevatives with his complete inability to articulate a complex thought. That conservatives would leave Herman Cain for a thrice-divorced serial adulterer is a little unexpected but makes sense given the dynamics of the race, in which conservatives are desperate for someone to stand against Mitt Romney.
But Newt Gingrich isn’t a serious candidate either, and if you want to know why, take the previous explanation for why Cain isn’t a real candidate, and swap the names. Like Cain, Gingrich has done few of the things necessary to building a viable campaign for the presidential nomination. Large chunks of his time have been spent outside of the three early primary states, where his organizations are threadbare. He has $300,000 cash on hand, compared to the millions raised by Romney and Texas Governor Rick Perry, and has few endorsements from Republican Party activists and lawmakers. According to Mark Blumenthal’s poll of “power outsiders,” only 20 percent say they stand a good chance of endorsing the former House Speaker.
All of this is to say that you should ignore the noise. Like Bachmann, Perry, and Herman Cain before him, Gingrich is basking in the spotlight generated by a desperate conservative movement. As soon as it becomes clear that Gingrich is a terrible choice for facing Barack Obama, they’ll turn their attention elsewhere.
Photo credit: Jamelle Bouie