Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The GOP candidates, Part 6: Herman Cain

First, some news: looks like Chris Christie is going to stay out; he's holding a press conference at 1pm today, if the rumors are to be believed. Mitt Romney's a very happy man.

The other big news this morning is an ABC/Washington Post national Republican poll which confirms the findings of the previous poll, by Fox. The relevant bits are:

-Rick Perry's taken a big hit, losing over a third of his support, dropping from 28% to 17-19%.
-Despite the wide fluctiations in the support of Perry and others, Romney continues to chug along in the low to mid twenties, lending further support to our recent discussion of his position. He has now passed Perry in the polls, according to the rolling average of polls compiled by realclearpolitics.com
-Herman Cain is the new flavor of the month, picking up just about all the voters Perry lost. He is tied with Perry in 2nd place in hte new poll.

Cain's strength means it's time to revisit his candidacy. His shortcomings in foreign policy were discussed previously. As a successful businessman and former chairman of the board of directors of the Kansas City Fed, he has significant and politically-attractive economics/business experience. He also has mastered stating his positions with an upbeat tone that stands out at debates.

His main policy proposal is his 9-9-9 plan, which would scrap all federal taxes and replace them with a 9% flat corporate tax, a 9% flat income tax, and a 9% national sales tax. Cain has not released, so far as I'm aware, a detailed analysis of his plan. Here's an analysis that shows, as one might expect with a flat tax structure, that the taxes for the poor would go way up and the taxes for the rich would go way down. By eliminating capital gains taxes, an estimated 23,000 millionaires would pay no taxes on their income at all. In total, the plan would bring in roughly $300 billion less than the current plan, which would require more debt.

But, Herman Cain is not, at least at this point, a serious or viable candidate for President. On a superficial level, he appears to be more interested in building his name and selling books than winning the nomination. His list of upcoming events includes nothing in Iowa and New Hampshire, instead holding events in later-voting states like Texas, Virginia, Ohio and Arizona. He's taking 2 weeks away from campaigning to sell his book. He also has very little campaign infrastructure in place (pollsters, Iowa caucus captains, etc.), though with the increased attention/donations, he might be able to build a real campaign.

More generally, his complete lack of experience in government will be a damning liability. This past weekend, he appeared on Fox News Sunday. He was asked whether, by adding a new kind of tax (federal sales tax), would he make it easier for the government to tax more. He said "In the legislation that I am going to ask Congress to send me, I want a two-thirds vote required by the Senate in order for them to change it. That will impede cavalierly raising it." The problem is that the legislation would be clearly unconstitutional. One piece of legislation cannot bind another. Cain and his advisors appear to be unaware of this fact.

Cain also has practiced the Republican pastime of lying about health care reform. In a recent debate, he claimed that he would not have survived cancer a few years back had Obamacare been in place. He stated that his care would have required a federal bureaucrat's approval. This claim was determined by Politifact to be "False".

Herman Cain, while not a serious candidate, is attracting significant conservative anti-Romney support. He will have to decide whether he wants to profit from this support by selling books (the Huckabee route) or actually try to be elected President. Given his significant weaknesses as a candidate and complete lack of government experience, he might be better off to try the former.

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