The announcement last week that Atlanta’s own Herman Cain was launching an exploratory committee for a presidential run in 2012 may not have landed him in the pole position on pundits’ lists. But neither has Cain gone unnoticed by the national media.
The Atlantic magazine’s March issue includes a profile of Cain that is available online now. The author, Joshua Green, then dug up and posted a copy of Cain’s 1994 exchange with Bill Clinton, who was then promoting his own ill-fated health-care reform. I’m including it here:
As Green notes about the exchange,
[T]his strikes me as an enormously valuable thing for someone seeking GOP support in 2011, since health care will be a central issue in the Republican primaries. Today, every Republican is critical of the Democratic health care plan. But Cain was fighting the Democratic health care plan 17 years ago! That counts for a lot. Especially when the presumed GOP favorite, Mitt Romney, was, at that very same time, doing his best to outflank Ted Kennedy to the left on the question of who was more vehemently pro choice. (Italics and links original)
Another national magazine, National Review, published a story about Cain online last week as well — this one a longer, Q&A piece by Jim Geraghty. I thought there were two key passages regarding the obstacles to Cain’s becoming a serious player in the GOP primary race. First, about his lack of political experience:
The other response to when people say, “You’ve never held public office,” is, “That’s true. Most of the people in Washington, D.C., have held public office before. How’s that working out for you?” The answer is, we have a mess. The biggest thing that we lack is leadership. My record in business speaks for itself when it comes to my ability to identify real problems and make sure that we have the right people in place who understand how to address them.
And second, about whether he can raise enough money to raise his profile and be truly competitive:
The first criterion is whether or not I can be competitive in raising money, because, as you know, campaigns don’t run on air. The initial response has been fantastic — and not just what we’ve seen in the last two days. When I’ve traveled around, speaking to different groups, people have pledged their support, and as soon as I was ready and set up to accept funds, they were ready to write checks and reach out to others to write checks. That has exceeded expectations.
We don’t have to raise the most money. I don’t believe that, in order to win the presidency, we’re going to have to raise $750 million. That’s obscene. But we will raise enough to be competitive.
Jumping into the race so early may give him a better shot at hitting his fund-raising goals, and doing so now, before the field has begun to take shape, arguably makes it easier for him to get earned — that is, free — media exposure. How far he will make it is anyone’s guess. But with Newt Gingrich expected to form his own exploratory committee in the next couple of months, next year’s presidential race will have more of a local flavor than usual.
(Full disclosure: Herman Cain is host of a radio show on 750 AM and now 95.5 FM News Talk WSB, a corporate sibling of the AJC.)