The Corner

Cain and the Social Issues


One interesting thing about diving into Herman Cain’s past is discovering how long he’s been flirting with running for office. It’s frequently mentioned in pieces about him, such as this 1996 Omaha World-Herald piece:

Cain isn’t ruling out anything at this point, except for local office.

Maybe governor or senator or even a post in the administration, he says, if Dole wins and asks.

“I might even run for president,” Cain says with a grin. ”Who knows?”

But Cain’s first run for office didn’t happen until 2004, when he ran (and lost in the primary) for a Georgia senate seat. Why the delay?  At least one reason, according to a 1998 piece in Nation’s Restaurant News that explores why Cain decided against running for a Nebraska senate seat in 2000, is that he wasn’t comfortable with campaigning on social issues:

After meeting with political consultants and past and present senators, Cain said he had determined that while he has very strong and distinct opinions about business-related matters, he is less clear-cutin his stances on social issues and was not ready to appease voters by taking stands on those issues.

“Too many people in the electorate are single-issue voters,” he commented, “and to try and cater to the single-issue voters and the single-issue pockets out there felt like I was compromising my beliefs. As an example, with the pro-life and pro-abortion debate, the most vocal people are on the ends. I am pro-life with exceptions, and people want you to be all or nothing.”

He added, “I am not a social-issue crusader. I am a free-enterprise crusader.”

Interestingly, when Cain did run for senate, he made abortion a key issue in his campaign. According to The Atlantic, Cain focused on the fact that Johnny Isakson supported allowing abortions in cases of rape, incest, and the mother’s life, while the only exception Cain was comfortable with was when the mother’s life was endangered. When Isakson (then a House member) voted for allowing overseas military hospitals to offer abortions, Cain (along with Mac Collins, who was also running for the Georgia Senate seat), was endorsed by Georgia Right to Life.

When Cain talked about abortion on Meet the Press Sunday, he had the same position as he did in 2004: he does not want abortion legal in cases of rape or incest, and when it comes to cases where the mother’s life is endangered, he wants the family to decide what to do. 

Katrina Trinko — Katrina Trinko is a political reporter for National Review. Trinko is also a member of USA TODAY’S Board of Contributors, and her work has been published in various media outlets ...

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