In 2008, Mitt Romney received a glowing endorsement from a popular talk-radio host.
“Mitt Romney’s leadership credentials offer the best hope of a leader with substance, and the best hope for a good president who could turn out to be great,” the talk-show host noted in an opinion column, pointing to Romney’s business background, Olympic leadership experience, and life largely spent outside politics.
That was Herman Cain, then doing an Atlanta-based talk-radio program.
According to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, Cain and Romney currently lead the GOP field. In Facebook lingo, the two frontrunners have a “complicated” relationship. Beyond a doubt, Romney and Cain have the most extensive business experience of all the GOP candidates. They also both first ran for Senate and lost, although Romney won the GOP nomination. Romney has occasionally thrown a friendly word toward Cain; Cain, in turn, has more vigorously attacked Rick Perry (including announcing last week that he would not consider being the vice-presidential candidate on a Perry ticket) than he has Romney. Underlying their dynamic is a shared interest in seeing Perry lose support: Cain is directly competing with Perry for the not-Romney candidacy in the primary. From Romney’s perspective, Cain can reduce Perry’s support — and if Cain emerges as the main alternative to him, all the better.
Asked for public comment, neither campaign is effusive. “Governor Romney respects Mr. Cain and thinks real-world economic experience is an essential attribute,” says Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. A Cain aide is even more succinct, saying simply, “They get along well.”
Romney’s friendliness toward Cain has been particularly apparent in the debates. “Herman Cain and I are the two on the stage here who’ve actually worked in the real economy,” Romney argued during the August debate held in Ames, Iowa. “If people want to send to Washington someone who spent their entire career in government, they can choose a lot of folks. But if they want to choose somebody who understands how the private sector works, they’re going to have to choose one of us, because we’ve been in it during our career.”
In the September debate held in Tampa, Fla., Romney was quick to showcase his agreements with Cain on health care. “Herman Cain is right,” Romney said, answering a question about health care immediately after Cain had, “and let’s get back to getting the cost of health care down. I happen to think that’s an enormous issue. And I agree with almost everything you said, Herman, but the reason health care is so expensive, I think you hit the nail on head. You said it’s not just because of insurance, it’s because of the cost of providing care.” Discussing Obamacare in the debate held later last month in Orlando, Romney once again highlighted Cain in his response. “What you heard from Herman Cain is one absolutely key point, which is Obamacare intends to put someone between you and your physician. It must be repealed,” Romney said.