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The Power of Personality: Cain Comes To Town

The Power of Personality: Cain Comes To Town

The story of Presidential candidate Herman Cain begins and ends with personality. That is not to say that the middle doesn’t contain a large amount of substance, because it does, but his emotive presence in a sea of dry politicians refuses to be overlooked. He, and his presence, were on hand to address a group of about eighty people Monday at The Smokey Row Coffee Shop in Des Moines.

As he gave a brief opening statement and took questions from the crowd one could quickly come to the conclusion that his personality, and not his impressive business experience, may be his biggest weapon moving forward. The current world of Presidential politics is one in which the media can conjure up a negative narrative on a candidate faster than a State Fair artist can draw you a self-portrait. When it comes to Herman Cain, this will not be so easy.

His personality is a rare mixture. I would call it one part warmth, one part energy, and two parts forcefulness. Though we won’t find out unless he raises his profile, if the media is able to demonize this man…then nobody is safe.

However inescapable it was, this campaign stop was about much more than his personal traits. He took about twenty questions from the group, running the gamut from Pakistan to pre-school.

Ripping into the Obama administration was consistent throughout. He addressed spending most adamantly, calling for an across the board cut of 10% from each Federal department, a capital gains tax of 0%, a payroll tax holiday, and implementation of the Fair Tax. He broached the subject of Social Security reform by re-stating his position of following the Chilean model by creating an optional system that is “not privatized, but personalized.”

He all but announced he is running, joking he couldn’t say it officially until his announcement on May 21st. This being the case, we here at The Conservative Reader will have an in-depth look at his background and positions in the coming days. His personal story in many ways is an inspirational one, while his platform is a unique blend of policy positions. He will no doubt win over some of you, intrigue some of you, and frustrate the rest.

For the time being though it is safe to say his position in the race is more solid than one might think. Recently he got glowing reviews of his first debate performance, and this week the good news kept on coming. The last 72 hours has seen the exit of two candidates whose supporters could easily gravitate towards Cain, but for far different reasons.

Though Donald Trump’s candidacy was hardly serious, his high poll numbers were not all name recognition. A percentage of them represented a group searching for either a fighter or a business approach to government. Enter Herman Cain.

Most beneficial to Cain though is the disappearance from the scene of Mike Huckabee. Of any of the figures on the National landscape it is Huckabee that Mr. Cain most resembles (yes they are both former preachers too). The scores of voters, especially in Iowa, who found themselves drawn to Huckabee’s warm affability will find it hard not to be drawn in by Herman Cain and his most powerful weapon…his personality.

Capturing a significant number of these “released delegates” would afford him the ability to stay viable for the next few months. If he indeed is able to stick around he will be required to provide more specific details than currently offered by his 17 page document “The People’s Platform.” Meeting this challenge, and seeming Presidential while doing it, could punch his ticket to the Finals.

Though a lot has to go right, a path for him to enter the upper echelon of contenders is starting to become visible. At this stage in the game, a realistic chance is all an upstart candidate can ask for. If he is able to connect with the masses as well as he did with the folks at this event on Monday, you may not want to bet against him.

Iowa’s First Night With Newt As Candidate

Iowa’s First Night With Newt As Candidate

Monday night I got to see essentially the same man I saw a year ago at the 2010 Polk County Republican Spring Banquet.  This is a guy who has spent the past 12 years of his life dedicated to working with smart people to come up with solutions to America’s problems, and who comes across as thoughtful, smart (make that brilliant), and ready to work.

I say “the same”, because even a year ago, Newt Gingrich already seemed like a man bent on the idea that we can fix the American healthcare system without creating a yet another new bureaucracy incapable of bending to the people’s will.  A year ago he was pressing substantive health care reform ideas that acknowledged the deepest problems the Federal government has with running programs like Medicare… the government is just incapable of managing the fraud and abuse that have become one of the largest tax-payer boon doggles of all time.

I say “the same”, because a year ago Newt came to Des Moines with not only an air of confidence in himself that comes from decades of experience in the public eye, but a sense of purpose in his own life beyond giving a speech to a room full of Republican activists.  He seemed a man already on a mission, perhaps already trying to find ways to do the job of president without the title.  Some would call him a “statesman”.

But let’s say he was also a different man.

On Monday, the former House Speaker seemed to have eschewed the grim demeanor he carried in 2010.  It was almost as if making the decision to run for President had taken a weight off of his shoulders instead of putting it on.  He answered questions from the press and from a very receptive audience of about 200 with ease.  He handled the big question of the day, regarding his comments on Sunday on Meet the Press, (where he confounded conservative Republicans by apparently criticizing Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan as “too big a jump” to the right), with a good explanation of his comments.  For those of you who are interested, he essentially stated he had not communicated his thoughts well and was concerned about making dramatic changes to a program that impacts every single person in America.  His emphasis seemed to be on caution and taking more of a phased approach to any changes in Medicare.  Frankly, the transcript from Sunday’s program seems to say about the same thing, so I’m struggling with why people are upset about his comments.

Perhaps if people took the time to read the transcript instead of the headlines. Just sayin’.

With the last in mind, I will say, “the same”, because he does and may for some time, struggle slightly with how he communicates a message that may have significant research, analysis, and a team of high-valued brain-power behind it, in a way that can be understood by folks who have not had time to walk through the thought-process with him.  He seems sometimes to suffer from a mild form of “Keyesitis” (for those of you who recall the enigmatic and hyper intelligent former US Ambassador and former Presidential Candidate Alan Keyes), or a predilection to speaking exactly what’s on his mind, even if the listener is unable to grasp the meaning easily.  More simply put, he can sometimes be too smart for his own good.  I don’t think he lacks the ability to explain himself, but in an age of entertainment, technology, and the 15 second sound bite, it is substantially more difficult to get these ideas across when the attention span of your listener is so severely limited, and the assumption that everything one needs to hear can be boiled down to a dozen words.

I suspect that as his campaign proceeds, he will work with his staff to formulate a message that can be more easily understood.  His biggest risk may be answering questions for which he has not prepared a clear and simple answer, unless he can get to where he can regularly think and explain himself candidly at the level of a high school student or college undergraduate.

It was good to see Newt again, and I’m looking forward to seeing other candidates as the lead up the Iowa Caucus continues!

More comments on Newt’s Des Moines event can be found at Kathie Obradovich’s blog.

Sometimes You Roll The Dice…

Sometimes You Roll The Dice…

The Republican Party of Iowa (RPI) can be forgiven for taking a gamble on a big name casino owner like Donald Trump for their spring fundraiser… if you didn’t know, the star of The Apprentice, and one-time potential candidate for President, is the advertised main event for The Lincoln Dinner on June 10.  Now, with the Donald’s decision to put the breaks on any plans to run for President, the plans for June 10 are mired up a bit.

According to Casey Mills, spokesman for RPI, Trump is “reassessing” his plans to appear in Iowa.

You’d think that Matt Strawn would be reassessing the situation as well, no?  How much sense does it make to keep a candidate on the schedule who garnered a large amount of initial, albeit emotional, support and then just dropped out?  Do Iowa Republicans want to spend their time listening to someone who has been all flash and no fire?  Are they coming to this event to hear the musings of one who couldn’t make it past the starting gate?  Or do they want to see someone they can vet and get behind in the Caucus?

I suspect that Donald has some good observations to make about our current business climate, and the dynamics that exist with countries like China and Brazil as the US tries to work its way out of the economic mess it’s in.  But it is hard to believe that someone who would only be in the race “half heartedly”, would truly have words of wisdom or advice to Iowans with regard to their task of looking through the resumes of those who remain.  At least not words of substance.

The good news is that our list of people to watch has dropped by two in a few days.  Hopefully we’ll be down to half a dozen by the time we get to the Iowa Straw Poll.

The bad news is that RPI needs to regroup and figure out what to do for the Lincoln Dinner.  Perhaps Ron Paul is available?

The Power of Personality: Cain Comes To Town

Ron Paul Implies Formation of Histories Shortest Expedition

On Tuesday afternoon the Ron Paul Exploratory Committee officially revved its engine for the first time in Iowa by opening a campaign office in Ankeny. The office is the first one in the Nation that the Congressmen has opened in his current test drive for a White House run. Wasting no time, the Ron-voy rolled into town so the candidate could personally christen the property, introduce his Iowa exploratory staff, and take part in a brief Q and A session with the media.

Exploratory Committee Chairman Drew Ivers opened by highlighting the unique characteristics of Ron Paul’s Congressional background and summarizing his small government message. Among the selling points he covered is that, in twenty years in the House, Mr. Paul has never voted for a tax increase, an unbalanced budget, or to give the Executive branch more power. To go along with this voting record he has never taken a tax payer funded junket and has long refused Congressional benefits.

As far as the exploratory staff introductions, four of the five were on hand and introduced. They are Executive Director Steve Bierfeldt and Regional Directors Ryan Flowers, Ani DeGroot, Rachel Karnia, and Rocco Moffa. In keeping with the demographic of his most ardent supporters, all were young. Mr. Bierfeltd let it be known that the team will have a presence in all 99 Iowa counties as they try to gauge the level of support their candidate currently has with Iowa voters.

Unquestionably the biggest news to come out of the gathering was Mr. Paul’s prediction that his decision to run or not will be made within a week. You don’t have to have a John Nash-like “Beautiful Mind” to calculate what this means…The decision has been made. Unless he hired a staff, held an event to announce them, and signed a 10 day lease for his office, this time table confirms the obvious and makes his deciding to run a near certainty (a decision that likely became certain after last Thursday’s post-debate million dollar online fundraiser).

In his opening statement and subsequent answers, it is clear that Paul is banking on the high level of enthusiasm that he and his message have encountered lately, and that the quality (i.e. enthusiasm) of his supporters will eventually lead to quantity. His up-beat and energized demeanor on this scorching May afternoon surely suggested that this enthusiasm has already worn off on him.

Mr. Paul is keenly aware that the current condition of the economy and the plummeting public support of our current foreign engagements will provide his unique and decades-long message with a broader and more receptive audience than it had in 2008. While the ground is indeed fertile, just how many of these people that he and his team are able to reach and seal the deal with remains to be seen. What no longer remains to be seen, and what was on full display Tuesday in Ankeny, is how long the “exploring” in Iowa will last. It will be over almost as soon as it got started.

The Ron-voy is in full throttle and the finish line for him and his pit-crew is not in Iowa, it’s in Washington D.C.

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