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All day I’ve had stories cross my RSS Reader about last night’s GOP candidates’ debate in South Carolina and just about every one of them could be headlined “Herman Cain Mysteriously Wins Debate With Mysterious Powers of Mystery. Also, He Can’t Win Anything.” With each story, I’ve gotten more and more irritated at how quickly the authors, who were usually well-established and professional political pundits, threw up their hands and declared utter bafflement at Cain’s performance. What irritated me the most is how so little time any of them spent looking into why Cain did so well and why he wowed a Fox News post-debate focus group.

John Guardiano wrote perhaps the most succinct illustration of what irritated me so in the American Spectator.

Herman Cain seemed to strike a chord with Frank Luntz’s voter focus group, though I’m not sure how or why. Cain did articulate faithful conservative positions; and he has a certain folksy, down-home appeal. That he’s a retired businessman and entrepreneur, and not a career politician, also adds to his electoral allure.

Let me take this apart piece by piece, starting with the first sentence. Guardiano’s use of the weasel word “seemed” is flat-out disingenuous. Cain didn’t “seem” to score big with the focus group. He did. Take a look at the video. Watch the hands rocket skyward when Luntz asks them who thought Cain won the debate. Listen to the glowing and crisp complements — almost 2 minutes worth of them.

Better yet, read Guardiano’s own words. They echo nearly every complement given to him by those folks in the focus group. And yet he’s completely flummoxed?

I call shenanegans. Any author worth their salt would have at least acknowledged the focus group’s reactions. A truly good writer would have spent a few moments trying to put themselves in the head of one of those folks. Who doesn’t show at least some interest in solving

Guardino is but one of many - several of whom Stacy McCain soundly thrashes in this post — professional commentators who simply can’t get past their own insulated worldviews to see what is plainly true. There’s no mystery to Cain’s appeal. Stacy quoted Cain’s communications director Ellen Carmichael whose explanation is just about perfect: “When people meet Herman, they like Herman.”

You don’t have to accept her word for it, though. I have data.

Gallup has held a running poll of something they call “Positive Intensity” that measures how strongly people like a candidate they know about. A counterpart to name recognition, positive intensity measures how likely it is people will like a candidate once they become familiar with them. In the three polls where Gallup has included Cain’s name, going back to mid-March, he has consistently placed in the top 5. He’s beaten such candidates seen by the professional punditocracy as “serious” candidates as Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, and Haley Barbour (before he dropped out). He’s been running neck and neck with Mitt Romney, the guy the pros would simply anoint to the nomination if only they could get past all us pesky voters.

But if that doesn’t convince you, listen to Stacy McCain. He has seen Cain operate on the ground more often than I have. He’s seen first-hand how strongly Cain connects with audiences time and time again. That’s why he believes Cain is a legitimate contender for the nomination. Now I don’t know how often Guardiano has seen Cain at work. I suspect he’s not gotten outside his own DC world see one of Cain’t many public appearances — 15 times in the past three weeks in New Hampshire and elsewhere. He might have seen Cain speak at CPAC where he lit up the crowd like it was a gasoline-soaked haystack, but if he did, he’s forgotten the visceral connection Cain made with a packed hall that day.

Guardiano and the rest of the Beltway commentariat considers Herman Cain’s appeal an ineffable mystery. I don’t. I can read the polls. I can see how people react to him. Herman Cain is a presidential candidate, not the Continuum Transfunctioner. All I had to do to see that was get out of my own safe bubble and look. If the John Guardianos of the world can’t manage to do that soon, no one could blame us for asking how much of their stupefaction is honest and how much is intentional.

UPDATE: In a related story, it’s probably a mystery how Cain’s team manages to play the political game pretty well too. Who can know how they do it?

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3 Responses to “Herman Cain is a Mysterious and Powerful Candidate Whose Mystery is Exceeded Only by His Power”

  1. ‘Smart’ Pundits Sneer at Herman Cain : The Other McCain says:

    [...] .recentcomments a{display:inline !important;padding:0 !important;margin:0 !important}@import url(;HomeAbout Robert Stacy McCainAbout Smitty The Other McCain"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler‘Smart’ Pundits Sneer at Herman CainPosted on | May 6, 2011 | View Comments var addthis_product='wpp-256';var addthis_config={"data_track_clickback":true,"ui_language":"en"};Photo courtesy of Ellen Carmichael Herman Cain meets with reporters Thursday following the Republican presidential debate in Greenville, S.C. His communications director, Ellen Carmichael (in green blouse) checks her messages.“So now it’s the duty of the establishment pols and the establishment media to assure us that Cain can’t win . . .” - Jeff Goldstein, Protein WisdomI’ve already dealt with Noah Kristula-Green’s sneering dismissal of Herman Cain. Now go read Jazz Shaw’s account of the South Carolina GOP debate, where he sarcastically sneers:And some of the expected voices like Jim Hoft and Stacy McCain immediately went into full blow, ALL CAPS DRUDGE MODE yelling CAIN WINS! CAIN WINS! But let’s face it… Cain has a lot more work to do than Pawlenty. One good appearance which was, at times, rather short on substance is not, I think, going to be nearly enough to launch his electoral ship boldly out into the public eye as a serious contender.Go read the whole thing, and then watch the video of Frank Luntz’s focus group (or watch it again, if you’ve seen it already):Luntz asks for a show of hands of Cain supporters and then says, “Well, we can stop right there!” More than half the people raised their hands, and when Luntz asks how many of them began the evening as Herman Cain supporters, only one hand goes up. “This is unprecedented — he was not a real candidate before tonight.” Notice also at the 1:20 mark where a guy says of Cain, “He’s likeable.”Luntz was surprised by the result — I was not. I had predicted a Cain victory (as had my friend Steve Foley at Citizens for Cain). In fact, in a conversation with Cain’s communication director Ellen Carmichael a few hours before the debate, I’d said that Mitt Romney skipping the debate was perfect, because it would highlight the contrast between Cain and the charisma-deficient Tim Pawlenty.Yet Jazz Shaw, who didn’t see it coming, sneers at the result that vindicates my judgment, and then sneers at my excitement — and also sneers at Jim Hoft - because being excited is uncool. Folks: It’s time to get excited! Go join the online grassroots army at Citizens for Cain. (You can sign up by giving them your e-mail, so they can send you updates.)I’ve called Herman Cain “Steve Forbes with charisma,” and I think some people are underestimating how far that combination of a business background and a winning personality can take Cain in the GOP primaries. Some people would rather focus on the media-approved “frontrunners,” at risk of ignoring a political phenomenon that is truly “unprecedented,” as Luntz says.Despite the candidate’s obvious strengths, it’s not considered “smart” to cheer for a longshot, and so the very fact that Cain has been described as a “second-tier” candidate is, to some people, reason to dismiss him altogether. I’d hate to see that attitude become a self-fulfilling prophecy, so that the GOP is stuck with a bland moderate like Mitt Romney or T-Paw.This is not to say that Cain should be exempt from the same critical scrutiny any other candidate gets. Byron York rakes him over the coals pretty good for a “head-scratching moment” when Cain balked at outlining a specific policy for Afghanistan, saying that he is ” not privy to a lot of confidential information.”When Cain met with reporters after the debate, he explained that he approached Afghanistan like he would a business decision. “A good businessman does not make a decision without considering all of the facts,” he said. “I haven’t been privy to all of the confidential information to make that decision.” . . . “What I’m saying is I will not be pushed into spitting out a plan so people can say, this is his plan.”This makes perfect sense to me. Why should Cain, in May 2011, commit himself to pursuing a specific Aghan policy if he should become president in January 2013, when (a) he hasn’t consulted the top military and diplomatic personnel, and (b) the situation in Afghanistan may have changed enormously by the time he takes office? His chief complaint about current Afghan policy — “it’s not clear what the mission is” — is certainly sound. Reporters want to nail his feet to the ground and make him commit to a definite policy now, but that would only expose him to criticism either from his GOP primary rivals or (eventually) from Democrats. Credit Cain with being cagey enough not to play that game.As might be expected, Dave Weigel was thoroughly cynical:Cain, the businessman and motivational speaker, just kept repeating that he had plans to solve problems, and the candidates with careers in politics didn’t have plans. The thing about repeatedly saying you have a plan is that an audience believes it. Cain did well in a post-debate focus group conducted by Frank Luntz for Fox News because, to use some of their words, Cain was “articulate” and he “had plans.” The news of the focus group spread quickly. When the debate ended, he waltzed into the spin room, made himself known to the press, and attracted the second-largest crowd of any candidate.We expect that kind of snarky cynicism from Weigel at Slate, but why should we get the same attitude from Jazz Shaw at Hot Air? (Speaking of “as might be expected”: Allahpundit does a post about Cain’s victory without linking me, the only blogger to interview Cain after last night’s debate.)Brian O’Connor at Red Dog Report has a poll on who won Thursday’s debate. But why are the pundits so eager to dismiss Cain’s win with the Luntz focus group? Jimmie Bise Jr. ponders the phenomenon:I think that focus group is very important and it’ll probably be given short shrift by the pundits, professional and otherwise. That’s a shame because those folks are just like millions of other folks who’ll head to voting machines all around the country in November, 2012 and they, not the pundits, will decide who becomes President. I’m sure someone can come up with a list of reasons why they think their opinion is worth more than the people in that room, but when it comes right down to it, simple voter enthusiasm matters more than anything else in the world. If Herman Cain can wow more and more of the country like he wowed that crowd last night, he will be our next President. It’s that simple.Exactly: It is not necessary that Republican presidential candidates impress the punditry, so long as they can impress the voters. From the start, the Cain campaign has been focused on running a solid “ground war” in the early states — Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina - building a grassroots base through good old-fashioned retail politics. And to remind you of what his Ellen Carmichael says, “When people meet Herman, they like Herman.”Do not underestimate the man. Because I’m keeping score. Doug Mataconis is already on the record:None of the five men who appeared at the GOP Presidential debate in South Carolina last night are going to be the Republican nominee for President.Never say never, Doug.UPDATE: Et tu, Hugh Hewitt?UPDATE II: This invitation just arrived via e-mai:HERMAN CAIN TO ANNOUNCE DECISION ON POTENTIAL PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN (Stockbridge, Georgia)- Longtime corporate executive and conservative leader Herman Cain will announce his decision regarding a potential presidential campaign on Saturday, May 21, 2011 in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. The event will be a free rally open to the public. Media must be credentialed to attend. . . . Cain is widely believed to have been the winner of the first 2012 Republican candidate debate Thursday evening in Greenville, SC, and has steadily gained grassroots and financial support across the U.S. He is best known for his executive positions in many major American corporations, including Godfather’s Pizza, Pillsbury and Burger King. He also served as the President of the National Restaurant Association and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Missouri.Pneumonia or no pneumonia, I can’t miss that. Hit the freaking tip jar!UPDATE III: With “friends” like Jazz Shaw and Doug Mataconis, who needs enemies at The Washington Post?UPDATE IV: Doctor Zero loves him some Herman Cain.UPDATE V: Jim Treacher also loves him some Herman Cain and welcome, Instapundit readers!UPDATE VI: Who loves him some Herman Cain? Jimmie Bise Jr!google_ad_client="pub-9749646473075980";google_ad_slot="2046026383"; Category: Election 2012, Herman CainComments AnonymousI’m still a politics blog junkie, but I noticed that I’m naturally clicking over to the “Beta Boys” of HotAir a lot less these days. Needless to say, this pleases me. Hugh HewittOkay. I have a garage full of Mitt Romney books and I need a long primary season to move them. Give me a break okay? MikeI’m not a “Paulinista” , but Paul did articulate his positions well…well, except for his remark about legalizing Heroin. But that is in line with his Libertarian views about not legislating morality.I was pleasantly surprised at Cain’s performance, though. None of the moderators could catch him “off key” and he gave intelligent answers. AnonymousFacing rabid stockholders as a CEO is plenty of practice for facing sneering little pundits in debates. I’m Not A “Smart” Pundit…Herman Cain Wins SC Debate « That Mr. G Guy's Blog[...] ‘Smart’ Pundits Sneer at Herman Cain. [...] ThomasDIt’s Hotair, what did you expect? They are either life members of the milquetoast brigade or bought-and-paid-for shills of the ruling class candidates.Might as well expect Ace to say something fresh and original. MikeReckon if Romney had showed up at the debate, you might have had a small market for them. But now they’re only good for putting in the outhouse just in case… MikeReckon if Romney had showed up at the debate, you might have had a small market for them. But now they’re only good for putting in the outhouse just in case… Instapundit » Blog Archive » ‘SMART’ PUNDITS SNEER AT HERMAN CAIN. RELATED: “Romney the Phantom Frontrunner.”…[...] ‘SMART’ PUNDITS SNEER AT HERMAN CAIN. [...] AnonymousJazz Shaw is a green room jackoff that gets his name on the front page once in awhile.He is a squish RINO extraordinaire. I gleefully mock everything he writes. Greg ToombsPrevious media-approved frontrunners? Obama and McCain.Case rested. AnonymousCain - West 2012 Drstanly1Palin/Cain GuestI’ve said before, do you need more proof?George Will’s 30% uptight “highly educated Whites” Ruling Class GOP will not let Cain (or Palin, or West for that matter) into their room.It is up to Tea Party America to oust the Ruling Class bastards.Who reads Hot Air, bunch of cowardly weenies who rely on irritating Constitutional Conservatives voters just Hot Air weenies can get the nits.Corrupt Bastards; why let them play you for fools? Anonymousi was as suprised as lutz was. cain was okay but i wasn’t overly impressed by his answers. he does have a sonorous voice (put me in mind of ex-mayor of san fran, willie brown) but after all the carping about barack’s lack of experience, is a pizza guy with ZERO political experience really the guy on whom to hang our hat ? (not to mention the easy ‘cain/mccain’ jibes that would be sure to come.) i’m still waiting for an exciting candidate (assuming it won’t be palin). AnonymousWhat I see in Cain is an unashamed, unapologetic conservative. I don’t like those candidates who have to go wishy-washy and apologize for various conservative positions. Cain does not look like he’s going to pull punches to spare the media’s scorn, and, what’s more, seems capable of withstanding and turning about the expected media assaults.I’m not totally sold, but boy-oh-boy, do I like him. DaveOWell, Rush does say that the media and the Dems will tell us who they fear, and who they most want to run against them, since Senator Graham hasn’t declared yet. Donald5221954iam sorry we do not need a nother POLITICAN running america do u not think the last couple n this one i wont say it has a clue YES we need a BUsInessMAN to get the country back to Greatness Hugh HewittI will tell you. ThePaganTempleOr Palin/West, with John Bolton named ahead of time as Secretary of State, to let people know a number one priority will be cleaning out that den of vipers at the state department. ThePaganTempleWait and see if John McCain don’t decide to throw his hat back in the ring. He’s about deluded enough to think he could do it. After all, he did swear if he won the last election he would be able to go for two terms, now all he has to do is say he’s good for one, but one would be all it would take to clean the mess up. Then he just needs to make sure he keeps stocked up on a good steady supply of Depenz. AnonymousWhy do you think the GOP still has so many open primaries like Iowa and New Hampshire? So that RINOs and Copperheads can pick a candidate who will either lose or be easy to roll as he slurps the “bi-partisan” Kool-Aid. Hugh HewittI do not care what you do with them so long as you pay for them. EldoradoCain for Pres, West for XO, er, VP. HOOAH! IlschiuRubio could never win, we must put our support behind Charlie Crist.Rubio is Senator from Florida. Who the hell is Charlie Crist? Anyone remember the shoo-in? AnonymousJust returned from WA State Republican Dinner and guess who won the straw poll tonight? Yep, Herman Cain. Romney 2nd, Daniels 3rd. Christy 4th, and Pawlenty came in 5th. People liked his directness, character, and experience in business (the non-Trump). Hugh HewittThere was nothing wrong with Harriet Miers. President Bush picked her and we should have respected that. AnonymousThe wonderful thing about Obama is now that he got elected, anyone can get elected and any everyone is a serious candidate. spot_the_dogA few months ago, I was one of those dismissing Cain as “Oh, no. Not another Novelty Candidate…”…but having seen him in action several times now (via youtube), I’m starting to see why he appeals to so many people.But in any case, I’m not one of the “swinging voters” the GOP needs to convince to vote Republican this time ’round. They could nominate a ham sandwich and I’d give it a tick; anything to show Obama the door. Spnam not going to vote romney, mccain, huck or lindsy g no matter what, and that means even if am told that means giving the o a second term. ChessDMr. McCain you and I comprehend differently, and I find that interesting. Jazz wrote: “Cain was a picture of self-confidence without being smarmy. He put on a lengthy display of being warm, engaging, charming and, where appropriate, demonstrating a great sense of humor. He’s well spoken while retaining a kind of down-home, sensible “every guy” persona.”“If the first three candidates came off like a lost cause, Cain was the person with the most to gain in this debate and he certainly looked like he took full advantage of the opportunity. A much wider audience who had never heard of him got a chance for an introduction and that all important first impression. And Cain made sure it was a very good one.”Maybe anyone who doesn’t voice only praise for Herman Cain is just racist? Maybe anyone who expresses any doubt whatsovever that Herman Cain isn’t Barack Obama circa 2008 (with regards to electoral prospects and conservative instead of radical) should just be shunned as bigoted? John SmithI have a small story to tell, and maybe it is nothing, but I felt someone might want to read this. This started several months ago when I signed up for Scribd, because I saw an article that I wanted to see the full content of. I was lazy and used my facebook login to sign up with. I literally haven’t done anything with this account in 6 months. Then, I get an email saying “friendsofMuslims” on scribd was now following me. I have no other subscribers, and I only signed up the one time just to read the one article. This intrigued me, so I dropped my account (really easy and painless to do) and reinstated my account with just a username, rather than connecting with facebook. My first action was to start following friendsofMuslims. Two things: the feed coming from this user appears to be photocopied anti-Israel webpages downloaded with a pdf printer, complete with the ads on the side, along with lots and lots of handwritten notes. Second, it appears the only people this user follows are people of obviously middle eastern decent, and American white people (like me) who have connected to Scribd using Facebook. The user has almost 60,000 people they are following, and I cannot tell you how many profiles I have seen of people like me who appeared to have logged in once with Facebook, then never again. Also, when you do that, all of their Facebook friends appear on the side as well, so it appears to be some kind of attempt at data mining. For mother’s day, this user uploaded pictures of US President’s mothers. Suspicious, no? Think you very much, and please allow this message to be seen by others. For the record, I am no Muslim troll or slammer. I didn’t “bring this upon myself”, because I mostly comment on domestic politics. I have no idea how this person picked me. spot_the_dog“Maybe anyone who doesn’t voice only praise for Herman Cain is just racist?”Huhwhat?Watch it with waving that race card around; might could take somebody’s eye out with that thing. K~BobNot “the” Jazz Shaw! OMG, OMG! You got a comment from THE Jazz Shaw!I would almost give up my free tickets to Daryl McFeeney and his Tub Thumpin’ Six over at the dirt track to have a chance to read something by THE Jazz Shaw. Snidely WhiplashCain / Johnson 2012Herman can carry the ball. Johnson made a great point about cost-benefit analyses.But Mr. Cain is the one who can carry the ball. ThomasDPizza guy? Lack of ‘political’ experience?Geez, copypasta much? Your dismissivenessmarks you as slightly less than honest. Ritchie The Riveter The thing about repeatedly saying you have a plan is that an audience believes it. No, what makes the audience believe it, is the speaker’s history of actually formulating and executing previous plans successfully.That is where Herman Cain stands out from his competition from the professional/political complex. AnonymousGoing back at least as far as Ross Perot, Americans have responded positively to the idea of a successful businessman as president. This is especially true of independent voters. This is why the “Steve Forbes with charisma” factor could be so important, even though the pundits don’t see it. The pundits are distracted, I think, by the fact that Cain is black. But it’s his results-oriented business background that is the real appeal — like Perot, or Forbes, or Donald Trump, for that matter.People get tired of talk, talk, talk, when what they want is jobs, jobs, jobs, and they figure that a businessman knows how to fix that. You can disagree with that kind of populist common-sense approach, but you can’t deny that it has a broad political appeal. In a crowded GOP primary field, 30-40% could be good enough for first place in Iowa, New Hampshire, etc. Can a charismatic businessman get that much, if matched up against a field of bland establishment candidates? Why not? While Huckabee or (especially) Palin could change the equation, but Cain beating Romney and T-Paw isn’t really that hard to imagine. davidinvirginiaI like Cain - had the chance to vote for him in the Republican senate primary in Georgia some years ago and did. My worry with him is his age and health, especially the later. He is a cancer survivor, yes? l zootoops l zootCancerist. TimTThank you for highlighting Mr. Cain. He is awesome. Yesterday, after I had watched the debate, I checked out some of the conservative blogs and they were very dismissing of him. They like the retreads of Romney, Huckabee Daniels, Gingrich, etc. Can you say BORING? If the Republicans nominate one of those RINO losers, WE WILL LOSE. Fresh blood is needed in our party and I believe Herman Cain can do this. Personally, I skip over websites that are dismissive to Cain because I feel they are not being truthful and just want the same old thing. I say go for it Cain, he really excites me as a candidate. AnonymousLiving in Atlanta I have had the pleasure of listening to Herman Cain formulate his policies on his radio talk show. Folks, when you can go on the radio 3 hours every night and defend your position against callers a couple of journalists or pundits are not going to make you sweat. Like any smart businessman, Cain spent 4 years on the radio honing his craft before hitting the big time. If I was Romney or any of the other front runners I would be nervous right comments powered by Disqus /**/ /**/ /**/ The Full Metal Jacket Reach-Around AwardCAUGHT HIM WITH A CORNDOG This spot rotates to honor those who link us in shameless obedience to Rule 2 of How to Get a Million Hits on Your Blog.Hit the Freaking Tip JarHEADLINESJIM TREACHER: Imagining the Left reacting to Herman Cain: 'Holy crap, what do we do? This guy is so black, he makes Obama look like Edgar Winter’s bloodless corpse half-buried in a snowbank. Begin Operation: Clarence Thomas!' ACE OF SPADES: Media still mystified by people who vote Republican BOB BELVEDERE: Courtesy Of The Red White And Blue: Osama Is Shark Bait THE LONELY CONSERVATIVE: Prediction: Osama bin Laden's computer will turn out to be crammed with kiddie porn JIMMIE BISE JR.: You stay classy, liberals! 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  2. Herman Cain Winning…Unexpectedly? « Blog de KingShamus says:

    [...] Jimmy over at the Sundries Shack has more on the strangely mysterious, utterly unknowable charm of Herman Cain. [John] Guardino is but one [...]

  3. Herman Cain Now the Hot Ticket : The Other McCain says:

    [...] about the Cain campaign:Herman Cain: A Political Outsider, and Proud of It (National Public Radio)Herman Cain is a Mysterious and Powerful Candidate Whose Mystery is Exceeded Only by His Power (Jimmie Bise Jr., Sundries Shack)Herman Cain Answers Rick Santorum’s Slight (Politico)Herman [...]

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