Conclusion: Increasingly, even despite a last minute flurry by Herman Cain, it is looking like Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee for President.
“My father gave me pride. He was the best damn chauffeur. He knew it and everybody else knew it.”
As we noted a few weeks ago, the Republican primary debates would be critical for Texas Governor Rick Perry. Unfortunately for Perry and his supporters, the debates were critical and Perry soundly disappointed expectations. In discussions with certain conservative operatives, we were advised that the Governor’s performance was, by their view, so dismal that calls for New Jersey Governor Christie to enter the race have been renewed with some vigor.
According to InTrade, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s odds of gaining the Republican nomination have reached an all-time high of 56%. At the same time, Perry’s odds have declined to below 20% on InTrade. Recall just a few weeks ago, Perry was leading Romney with a close to 40% probability of winning the nomination.
In more traditional polls, Romney has also now gained the lead as outlined in the chart below from the Real Clear Politics aggregate. The trend is not Perry’s friend, though it does appear to be Herman Cain’s friend as he has gained substantial ground in the last couple of weeks.
In the recent debates, Perry not only disappointed, but his performance has also initiated serious questions amongst pundits and Republican faithful as to whether he has the appropriate qualities to be President. As William Kristol wrote shortly after the third debate:
“But no front-runner in a presidential field has ever, we imagine, had as weak a showing as Rick Perry. It was close to a disqualifying two hours for him.”
Amongst conservatives, the core of the concern following the debates was Perry’s comments regarding illegal immigration. At one point, Perry indicated that critics of a Texas policy that allowed children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at state universities did not “have a heart”. A stance that is, of course, juxtaposed versus the strong immigration stance of much of the Republican base.
In terms of his more broad Presidential appeal the concern has been related to Perry’s foreign policy views, or lack thereof. When asked in the last debate how he would respond to a 3am phone call that Pakistani nuclear weapons had fallen into the hands of the Taliban, he gave the following meandering response:
“Well, obviously before you ever get to that point, you have to build a relationship in that region. That’s one of the things that this administration has not done. Just yesterday, we found out through Admiral Millen that Haqqani has been involved with, and that’s a terrorist group, directly associated with the Pakistani country. To have a relationship with India, to make sure that India knows it is an ally of the United States. For instance, when we had the opportunity to sell India the upgrade F-16s, we chose not to do that.”
As mentioned, Perry’s mistakes have opened the door for Herman Cain to establish himself as a legitimate contender versus Mitt Romney. Despite his late emergence in this race, on paper Cain has some Presidential worthy characteristics. His life story, as outlined by the quote at the outset, is a heart grabbing “made in America” narrative. Cain had a very humble upbringing and rose above any disadvantages of either race or poverty to become highly successful in the business world.
The bulk of Cain’s business career was in the restaurant industry in which, over the course of two decades, he turned around the struggling Philadelphia region for Burger King and then was appointed the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza by parent company Pillsbury. Cain went on to lead a management buyout of Godfather’s in 1988 and remained CEO for 8 years before leaving to become CEO of the National Restaurant Association.
In 1992, he was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, so is a rare Presidential candidate that has experience within the Federal Reserve system. Cain has also been actively involved in politics for the last 15 years or so as an advisor to a number of campaigns and as a candidate himself. First, Cain briefly ran for President in 2000 and eventually endorsed Steve Forbes. Second, Cain ran for the U.S. Senate in Georgia in 2004, but lost in a landslide in the primary to Congressman Isakson.
In the current race for the Republican nomination, Cain has quickly gone from being a long shot candidate to being considered a serious candidate. This has occurred on the back of a number of straw poll victories, including Illinois, Florida, and at the National Federation of Republican Women. The Florida poll, in particular, has led to an increased status for Cain as he finished with 37 percent of the vote, while Perry trailed with 15 percent and Mitt Romney followed with 14 percent.
Realistically, though, it is going to be almost impossible for Cain to catch Romney at this juncture. Romney has a massive campaign finance advantage, a massive organizational advantage, and has hit his stride in terms of executing on the campaign strategy. The question as always is whether Romney is developing an emotional bond with potential primary voters and even if the answer is “no” to that, voters may be looking beyond Romney’s likability factor finally as the InTrade contracts appear to be pricing in.
David Brooks of the New York Times wrote the following early yesterday:
“It’s exciting to have charismatic leaders. But often the best leaders in business, in government and in life are not glittering saviors. They are professionals you hire to get a job done. The strongest case for Romney is that he’s nobody’s idea of a savior.”
Daryl G. Jones
Director of Research