‘Ninety percent of success is showing up,” Woody Allen once observed. This helps explain why Herman Cain is soaring and Rick Perry has gone as flat as the Texas plains.
Turn on a TV, and there is the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO. From Fox and Friends to Face the Nation to The Tonight Show, the one-time chairman of the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank advances his message — virtually everywhere but the Weather Channel.
In the 18 days between the September 22 and October 11 Republican debates, Cain granted interviews to six broadcast-network programs, the Media Research Center reports, plus 18 national cable-TV news shows. Cain appeared twice on CNN, thrice on the Fox Business Network, and eleven times on the Fox News Channel. He also butted heads with an especially confrontational Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC on October 6.
After September 22, critics slammed Perry for letting children of illegal aliens pay in-state tuition at Texas’s government universities. A lingering controversy soon reemerged regarding a hunting camp that Perry’s family leased years ago. The camp long was called “Niggerhead,” but Perry’s father painted over that hideous word, which polluted a rock near the entrance. Precisely when the elder Perry did so remains unclear. And just after introducing the Texas governor on October 7 to the Values Voter Summit in Washington, the Rev. Robert Jeffress, Perry’s pastor, declared: “Mormonism is a cult.” Perry has yet to repudiate that insult.
Amid these media cyclones, where was Perry? He evidently vanished into the federal Candidate Protection Program. Rather than offer his side of these breaking stories, Perry largely faded into the sagebrush. Between the two latest GOP debates, Perry did two CNBC interviews and zero network spots.
Since Ronald Reagan left Washington in 1989, Republicans have yearned for a presidential nominee who could present free-market ideas with passion, energy, and commitment. They have longed for someone who would labor for limited government. And they have sunk into disappointment and simmered in rage as two generations of Bushes surrendered to their patrician instincts by ducking fights and letting the Left bludgeon them until they barely had a cheek left to turn.
Herman Cain embodies the Reagan approach. He is confident, tough, and combative, yet sunny, funny, and buoyant. Cain permanently could demolish the Democrats’ vile, vulgar lie that the GOP is the Vatican of U.S. racism. Those who oppose President Obama are not wrong, misinformed, or misguided; rather they are bigoted, Democrats too often contend. Last month, Rep. Andre Carson (D., Ind.) claimed that pro-tea-party Republicans in Congress want to see blacks “hanging on a tree.”
If Republicans nominate Cain, the Democrats’ default argument against the Right utterly implodes. Liberals then may have to battle conservatives on the merits.
Cain does not need to win 60 or even 40 percent of the black electorate. If 20 to 25 percent of black voters support this successful, self-made son of a maid and a chauffeur, the Democratic base dissolves, and victory belongs to Cain and many down-ballot Republicans wise enough to clutch his coattails.
Also, many whites backed Barack Obama to be a part of history, reboot black-white relations, or dry-clean their own racial linen. For such Americans, dumping Obama might be tough. But leaving Obama for a pro-growth Republican could be far easier if he happens to be black, too.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Rick Perry increasingly resembles a candidate who was expected to electrify the 2008 primaries. Former senator Fred Thompson (R., Tenn.) entered the GOP fray to great fanfare in September 2007. He first debated his opponents in Dearborn, Mich., the next month. Thompson took off the rest of that week and then largely avoided the spotlight. One rival campaign strategist dubbed this phenomenon “the hunt for Fred in October.”
To the astonishment of so many of his supporters — and to Herman Cain’s growing advantage — Rick Perry evidently has spurned Ronald Reagan’s example and embraced Fred Thompson’s.
— New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.