Cain’s rise dispells theory the media made it a two-man race

It appears that the two-man race for the Republican nomination has become at least a three-man race. A Fox News opinion poll shows Atlanta’s Herman Cain (at 17 percent) has caught up with a plummeting Rick Perry (19 percent) and is within single digits of the leader, Mitt Romney (23 percent). Not terribly far back is Newt Gingrich (11 percent).

These results, from a poll taken Sept. 25-27, differ significantly from a CNN poll taken a few days earlier. That poll shows Perry still strong at 28 percent, Romney 21, Gingrich 10, and Cain 7.

But I don’t really want to write about the horse race today. Rather, I want to discuss the media’s role in this election.

Like a lot of other pundits, I have described the race as a two-man contest between Perry and Romney. More than once. When I did so, I caught some grief from readers who claimed I and the rest of the media were trying to dictate the results of the election, pumping up two candidates and pushing all the rest to the side. We were trying to tell the American people what to think.

I can only speak for the rest of the media in general, from my experience working for two of the country’s largest news outlets (the Associated Press and Wall Street Journal). But for myself — and I do believe this to be true for the majority of other news observers — the conclusion that we had a two-man race came from the public, not in spite of it.

Think about this: A month ago, in a poll taken Aug. 29-31, Fox News found the following:

Perry — 26

Romney — 18

Ron Paul — 7

Michele Bachmann — 4

Cain — 4

Gingrich — 3

Rick Santorum — 3

Jon Huntsman — 1

Those results were broadly consistent with the findings of other polls at the time: Bachmann was higher on average, though clearly fading, and the average was a bit higher for Paul, who seems fated to live in the 5 percent to 9 percent range. (Until proven wrong, I’ll agree with the person I heard say the other day, “Ron Paul’s ceiling is his floor.”)

What conclusion could be reasonably reached, months and months after most of these candidates launched their campaigns, other than “It’s a two-man race”? Romney had support equal to that of candidates ranked third through sixth in the August Fox poll, and Perry bested the combined support of everyone but Romney.

So I and others wrote that it was a two-man race. Then things changed.

Perry had a series of progressively worse debates. Romney held his own. Cain stopped talking about Sharia law and started getting traction with his 9-9-9 plan. Gingrich had a series of good debate performances.

And don’t look now, but Cain is getting the attention his supporters thought the media were trying to withhold from him. He’s been all over television. The WSJ’s Dan Henninger wrote an entire column about him in today’s paper. Cain even benefited from a Sarah Palin gaffe (calling him “Herb Cain”).

It’s the same as when Bachmann caught fire and rose to the top tier…as well as when she stalled out and fell to the second tier.

The media aren’t trying to puff up Cain now any more than we were trying to hold him down before. The public responded to Herman Cain, and the media are responding to the public. If he falters, the cycle will work the same way. And likewise if he continues to gain momentum.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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39 comments Add your comment

Kyle Wingfield

September 29th, 2011
12:17 pm

That part about not wanting to discuss the horse race today applied only to my post — feel free to talk about it in the comments thread.


September 29th, 2011
12:24 pm

I would love to see “The Media” compare the lifetime accomplishments of Herman Cain to those of The Obama. Unfortunately, it was made obvious “The Media” doesn’t require The Obama to have a record of accomplishments before whitewashing his past to get him elected.


September 29th, 2011
12:29 pm

Respectfully, I have to disagree with your article. Cain was pushed by Fox News from the first time that he appeared in a debate. He gets all kinds of media coverage after winning the straw poll in Florida, a poll that measures the thinking of establishment delegates, not the people. But people get their news mainly from the big media outlets and most voters really are swayed by that narrow opinion.

Media truly makes or breaks candidates. Bachmann shot up after winning the Ames poll because she got all of the media attention, whereas Ron Paul who came in a close second and received nearly zero media attention and his poll numbers have been steady.

If media were truly fair, they would have a policy of giving candidates equal speaking time in debates and in interviews…but we all know that is not the truth.


September 29th, 2011
12:40 pm

Why when Cain wins a straw poll does the GOP look for recruits. Tell me why they GOP won’t support this man.

Michael H. Smith

September 29th, 2011
12:53 pm

Herman Cain was at the very least given the national attention he deserves by winning this straw poll that he may not have received otherwise. Go Herman Cain. A man who can beat death when it holds 70% odds against him isn’t someone to take lightly.


September 29th, 2011
12:57 pm

All this shows is how uninspiring the current crop of leading candidates is. Most are not particularly enthused about Romney or Perry and most are just hoping that someone steps out of the shadows who they can get behind. Right now, that is Cain. Also, note all the bru-ha-ha over NJ’s Christie this week.


September 29th, 2011
1:00 pm

You may not have tried to make it a two man race, but a lot of media outlets sure did. John Stewart’s hilarious bit on how the media ignores Ron Paul is a pretty good illustration of what the media is doing.


September 29th, 2011
1:01 pm

Cain has ZERO chance because the GOP won’t support him. Why the effort to draft Christy, does Cain only play for 2nd chair ?

ragnar danneskjold

September 29th, 2011
1:06 pm

Good afternoon, just a couple of notes from a Cain partisan. I was never distressed to see media describe it as a two-person race (either before or after Mr. Perry’s entrance); I don’t pay so much attention to media opinions. While I deem Herman the best of the group, I have not yet seen any candidate running as a Republican who could not hold my vote in November 2012 (yes, even Huntsman.) I think friend Pyrometman errs in averring that Fox News was pushing Mr. Cain; the only show I watch regularly, The O’Reilly Factor, features a host who continuously affirms that Mr. Cain cannot get the nomination. I urge all to ignore the pundits and endorsements, look to the policies that candidates would push as president.


September 29th, 2011
1:08 pm

It is over a year till the next election and those on top today may very well be out of it by then. So, it’s too early to get too excited over any candidate.

ken price

September 29th, 2011
1:14 pm

The media has been ignoring Cain since the beginning. Only now does he get some recognition because he won a straw poll. His supporters have noticed how he has been ignored but it make him more determined to rise above it and get his message out. He overcame being shunted to the back of the bus in favor of the more “electable” candidates and he will overcome all other obstacles that get thrown in his way. It is nothing special for him, he has been doing it his entire life.

Mad Max

September 29th, 2011
1:24 pm

I think Herman has a good grasp of what is wrong and he at least is willing to bring some new ideas to the tabls. My main concern is his lack of any background in international affairs, though as we all know the current incumbent is no magna cum laude in anything international or domestic and is totally out of touch with reality, so given a choice, Herman would garner my vote.

Robert Littel

September 29th, 2011
1:47 pm

To all you Rightists trying to make sense out of Cain’s fortune in Florida, you know that in an election between Obama and Cain, a third party effort would be mounted that would strip away many of the Right-wing supporters. It would perhaps inspire a David Duke run, that while the Right would deny it, would funnel the bigots you all know are there, right out of the Tea Party pockets and toward the “Great White Hope”.

To those of you holding out for a savior from New Jersey, you are in for a surprise. Chris Christi is running, not for president, but for vice-president. As an obnoxious fat Soprano type character (having already participated in the Koch brother’s ring kissing ceremony), who has already captured the unimagination of the bottom feeding trolls of the corporate owned Republican Party (and their auxiliaries, like the Tea Party), he wishes to attach his wagon to the best spot where he can step off onto the national scene. If a weak minded corporate puppet can be put in place by a corporate win in 2012, he will have four to eight years to transform himself (Huckabee style) into a svelte (or at least not grossly obese) possible contender down the road. Or, he will, if the Republican (corporate) candidate in 2012, is a train wreck going into the convention, sit out the next four years polishing his image and slimming himself down to provide an alternative to the “elected” incompetent Republican puppet and the Democrats (or what little is left of them after corporate trashing of the electoral process), riding a wave of corporate cash, Right-wing voter suppression, and the propaganda machine that has sold institutionalized stupidity to the masses already , right into The White House in 2016.

His running for president right now, might be the best thing that could happen for the Democrats (and the nation), because it is fairly evident that the strain involved in running the gauntlet would not play well for this heart attack waiting to happen. Four years of medication, lypo, and maybe even some self control and exercise, not to mention surgical remedies to lose weight, added to the non-strenuous nature of a number two position in government, might make him a more palatable corporate pre-strung puppet, in the long range plans of the ultra rich to finish off what little we have of a representative democracy.


September 29th, 2011
2:37 pm

Cain vs. Unable in 2012!

(compliments of Dennis Miller)


September 29th, 2011
3:09 pm

Its a little early to call this race anything. Other than a bunch of wingnuts trying to out batsh!t crazy each other. God this is gonna be a hilarious election.


September 29th, 2011
3:58 pm

Nothing personal, Kyle, but I’ve never let the media influence my choices. Democrats and the MSM on the other hand…

if they plead, their chosen candidate leads.

Cain’s message resonates with independent/common man/citizen. Be he black or white, we can identify.

There’s not a candidate within the GOP field that I couldn’t support. Some more so than others. It was interesting to see how many of the candidates would be pleased to have Newt Gingrich as their VP…Herman being one of them.

I’ll admit that Perry gives me pause. Way too much hype for this conservative…the consummate politician never inspires.

Just read your column downstairs.

Second, this is a bipartisan problem. Shortly after the 1986 federal tax overhaul, the Post reports, “lawmakers — particularly Democrats — latched onto the tax code as a vehicle for new initiatives. …

“[I]t started in 1986 with the low-income housing credit for developers and investors. As Reagan’s budget cutters were slashing direct spending on housing, Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) won bipartisan support for the credit, which quickly became a primary source of financing for housing construction and rehabilitation.”

Perfect opportunity to bring this article to the fore:

American Murder Mystery
Why is crime rising in so many American cities? The answer implicates one of the most celebrated antipoverty programs of recent decades.

The author and I may not have reached the same conclusion but it points to the unintended consequences of government intervention.

Peter Aylett

September 29th, 2011
4:40 pm

I agree with Scooter. We elected a community organizer. How’s that working for you? Cain is more than able. He’s actually had executive experience …and succeeded — Hello!!

Atlanta Native

September 29th, 2011
5:37 pm

@Robert – I would argue with you, but it would not matter. If Cain does get the nod, I look forward to listening to Dems argue that Cain is either a puppet or not a “true” african-american as opposed to Obama. Listening to people explain how his upbringing as the son of a chauffeur in the South will quite amusing. Wait . . is that Harriet B. Stowe’s character I hear him being referred to . . . . .

I like Cain, a lot. However, Media Matters has been taping his radio show at least since he considered a run, if not before. Out of context quotes will fly! Also, if elected, he will face the problem Truman had as president, the American public prefers platitudes to honest dialog when the president is speaking.

As a conservative, I am upset the time was never ripe for Sam Nunn.

Rafe Hollister

September 29th, 2011
5:48 pm

No one seems to be talking about Romney’s inability to move higher than 24%. When I look at the polls it is obvious to me that 75% of the Rep vote is opposed to Romney. Take anyone other than Romney and think about their supporters. Are Backman’s or Gingrich’s or Santorium’s supporters going to move into the Romney camp, when they withdraw? I don’t think any of Ron Pauls or either of Jon Huntsmans supporters will either. Few or Rick Perrys or Cain’s will either.

I don’t believe Perry can get the nomination being as soft on illegals as he is. Hopefully Herman can continue to grow his support and move up. One of these guys is going to wind up opposing Romney and gathering up the votes, as the laggards fall to the wayside.

Rafe Hollister

September 29th, 2011
5:54 pm

Robert, it was not the “ultra rich” that yesterday said we need a little less democracy in America, it was an Obama advisor, a typical Marxist.

Republicans all over like Herman and your rant is total nonsense.


September 29th, 2011
6:01 pm

The “media” have inflated ideas of their intelligence, importance, and influence. I ignore most media opinions, just like I ignore most movie reviews. Herman Cain has been talking directly to the people all over the country, and the people are listening and approving, and we like his thoughtful words of wisdom. The fact that the media want to ignore or randomly speculate on Mr. Cain’s success in the Florida straw poll shows that the media is basically clueless. Herman Cain can and will Obama, and be our next leader, President Herman Cain!

Check your feelings at the door

September 29th, 2011
6:10 pm

Herman Cain is on the rise and is going to be in the mix till the end of this process and I would love to see him either as President or Vice President, but the smartest and most qualified person running is Newt! I know people say that he has to much baggage and is not going to be able to win, but I think if people will just listen to him and take their emotions out of the equation and ask themselves, who is best for this country, right now, who is ready day one to help this country get back on the right track….. Even the ones running would have to admit, it is Newt. He has so much more depth than any other candidate, and our president for that matter, that it is almost comical. Us the voters, will have to ask ourselves, who is best for the country? I think it’s Newt.

Atlanta Native

September 29th, 2011
6:27 pm

@ Check – Newt is brilliant. However, he, like Obama is a narcissist. It is his Achilles’ Heel. He is not suited for the presidency, though he has the brains to run things from behind the scenes. He will become an embarrassment and get into scandals because he knows he is so smart and will believe himself when he decides”bo one will figure out that I was involved”. He is best suited as a primary adviser to the “face” of power, but is not suited for the role of President. My wife was married to a Republican lobbyist and knew him well. It is because of Newt that she could not vote straight ticket.


September 29th, 2011
6:34 pm

The only candidate the right ignores is Ron Paul, and not so coincidentally he is the best candidate the right has.


September 29th, 2011
6:47 pm

Herman Cain is another RINO. He knows that the Federal Reserve is one of our biggest problems but does not want to do away with it since he once worked for it. A private banking system should not have the right to print the peoples money and then charge us a tax on it. President Kenned started printing United States Notes vs Federal Reserve Notes and was killed a few months later. The only true Constitutionalist is Ron Paul!!!

West Indian Charlie

September 29th, 2011
6:54 pm

Cain,for better or worse is entering a new phase in his campaign. We will see how this pans out in the days,weeks, months and a years time. That being said, I would be flabbergast if he gets the Republican nomination. I still think him winning the Florida straw poll was a protest vote because the Texan Cowboy perform so poorly in the debate.


September 29th, 2011
7:19 pm

Anybody but NoBama Hussein. As stated in the debates, two dogs have created more shovel ready jobs than NoBama!!

Real Athens

September 29th, 2011
7:29 pm

Herman Cain has never had an original idea in his life. He has been a sock puppet to the highest bidder for so long he is incapable of thinking for himself.

People have such a short memory. Is there any need to rehash the completely stupid things that have come out of his mouth/ Hell, those only since he declared his candidacy?

You’re high on glue if you think that any national candidate cares what the people of Georgia think. Georgia voters have voted the exact same way for over a century. All candidates have to do is pay a little lip service to the hot button non-issues and practice the proven, “southern strategy” and ride the wave to our 15 electoral votes.


September 29th, 2011
7:38 pm

Republicans, please listen carefully. Send every dollar you can to the Cain campaign. Give today, tomorrow and the next. Every republican dollar donated to the pizza salesman is one less dollar available to legitimate republican candidates. After sending your money to the pizza salesman, please consider additional donations to Santorium, Paul, Bachmann and Gingrich.

I know I am asking a lot but, after sending your money to these candidates. Please consider one last donation to the “Draft Palin” campaign. The only thing better than wasting republican dollars on loser candidates is wasting republican money on the former governor who quit her job after a few months in order to make money.

I take that back – the only thing better would be for Palin to take a break from making money and win the republican nomination. I’m guessing President Obama would top 400 electorial votes in a campaign against Palin.

Atlanta Native

September 29th, 2011
7:42 pm

@Real Athens – you must have gone to school there based on your knowledge of history. Georgia has only been Republican for the last thirty years or so.

Check your feelings at the door

September 29th, 2011
8:56 pm

@Atlanta Native – you make some good points, I can tell we would probably agree on most issues, I just think we need the best for this country and while I have sent both Newt and Cain contributions, I think Newt is the smarter choice, but thats just my observation…. Either way my business nor many others in this country can survive 4 more years of Obama……

Real Athens

September 30th, 2011
10:40 am

Atlanta Native: ‘TIs you that’s the moron. Sonny Perdue was the first Republican governor elected since reconstruction. That occurred in 2002. The GA house and Senate had their first Republican majorities in modern times after 2006 or maybe 2008. Far shy of “the last thirty years or so”.

My point: however, you’d have to be able to draw your own conclusion (I see from your posts that is difficult for you) is that Georgia has been electing the same brand of politicians for decades; regardless of party affiliation. Perdue, Deal, Miller — the list goes on and on — were all Democrats at one time. As was Strom Thurman of S.C. Would Lester Maddox run today as a Democrat or Republican?

If you studied YOUR history, you’d realize there isn’t a dimes worth of difference between the Dixiecrats of yore and the Republicans of today.

Yeah, I went to public school in Georgia. I listened and participated. What did you do? Take the Industrial Arts curriculum?

Atlanta Native

September 30th, 2011
1:15 pm

Thanks Athens. I understand that Tom Murphy ran the state like his personal fiefdom for decadess. I had the unlucky experience of being under the gold dome in 1990 on “Tom Murphy Day” reporting on the legislature. The whole experience was painful.

So why did I say 30 years? In 1984, approximately 30 years ago, Ronald Reagan took Georgia. To me, that was the beginning of the slow process of the politicians changing parties in Georgia. Since you had put them in charge for 100 years, I thought I would give you credit back to the first evidence of Republican stirrings in Georgia rather than point to Sonny Purdue (which is what one does before laughing, generally).

I agree that Georgia has voted conservative for years. I lament the death of the liberal Republican and the Conservative Democrat. Especially when it comes to great men like Sam Nunn and Goldwater, who would have no voice in their respective parties today whatsoever.

I am sorry my jab created such vitriol in you and, as the “moron” I clearly am, apologize.


September 30th, 2011
1:22 pm

First off, This isn’t Mr. Cains first straw poll win. He has won at least 14 straw polls around the country. Yet throughout all of them, none of him winning that many was reported in any of the news media, except I think FOX NEWS mentioned it once or twice. Why only after the Florida straw poll has Mr. Cain started to get all this attention is a mystery. Perhaps its because he has now jumped up into one of the top 3 positions. I have followed Mr. Cain from the moment he hit the scene and announced he would be running for the GOP nomination.His campaign has been a true grassroots American movement which its foundation has been us ordinary people sticking with him and supporting him because we have Faith in him and his message. Mr. Cain’s positive intensity score has been the highest out of all the other candidates from just about the beginning. Though his name recognition was one of the lowest because the majority of Americans just didn’t know who is was/is. Now, people are getting to know him and what he stands for and they like what they hear and see. While the other candidates started at the top with a war chest overflowing, Mr. Cain began his with an offering basket pasted around on the internet and in real time. Now people are seeing that it doesn’t take money for a candidate to become the nominee but that it takes a message worth listening to and understanding that it can work. From the beginning, I had this intuitive feeling that this man no one knew about, Mr, Cain, was going to eventually rise up to the level where people were going to start taking him seriously. And his has and is doing that. As Mr. Cain said, (paraphrasing), “there’s only one place he expects to finish in and that’s first place, if he didn’t think he could do it he wouldn’t have chose to run.” With it still being early in the election season, Mr. Cains has plenty of time to get people to get to know him and his message. And as that has been happening, people are coming to the decision that they like what the hear and see and are choosing to choose him as their candidate. As far as the GOP aren’t going to choose him to be the nominee, its up to the American People to choose that when they vote in the Primaries. And I truly believe Mr. Cain is able to get things done, given his successful past in turning around failing businesses into thriving companies. I think the America People have come to the point where they are fed up with career politicians and are ready for to put a Common Sense candidate into the White House, one who has a very successful business past, which is a positive at least at this point and time in America’s History with our stagnant economy. Mr. Cain has the ability to put his business successful common sense to use in helping to get America turned around and back on the right track. More and more people, black and white are beginning to take Mr. Cain seriously and are beginning to realize he has that fire that can ignite We The People into taking a stand that lets all know that we are the one’s that ultimately choose who is going to be our next 45th President. God Bless you Mr. Herman Cain! and God Bless America!

Real Athens

September 30th, 2011
2:01 pm

No apology needed Native, yet dearly noted and appreciated. I lament the loss of the like-minded politicians you describe. Reagan did win in Georgia. On the other hand, so did Clinton — I believe. I do know he was hoisted upon high by Zell Miller. His speech at the convention thrust him into the national spotlight which ultimately led to his appointment to Coverdale’s seat in the U.S. senate.

If you really want to delve into the last, truly great descendant of “the party of Lincoln” I humbly suggest you read Stephen Ambrose’ biography of Ike — even though there is a slight controversy regarding how much access Ambrose had to the former president. The meat of the biography is real and stands as a great roadmap as to how we could forge ahead today — minus segregation and other societal ills of the time, of course.

I am a true independent. I have never voted a straight ticket in my life –locally, or at the state and Federal levels. Our local elections in Athens are non-partisan.

Like you, I also covered news at the gold dome and across the state — from 85 until about 91.

No vitriol, here.

Real Athens

September 30th, 2011
2:10 pm

I might add: Reagan’s propensity for deficits and amnesty for illegals would hardly get him a seat at the table of today’s GOP — certainly not the nomination. Not that I was a great Reagan supporter, but all the sock puppets currently trotted out there today do him a disservice by mentioning his name.

Atlanta Native

September 30th, 2011
3:40 pm

BTW – as coming from a 1/2 Auburn 1/2 UGA family, and being on the Auburn side of things, the Athens swipe was more reflex than anything.

independent thinker

October 1st, 2011
7:06 am

A Newt- Cain ticket would be hilarious- go for it! All rhetoric-no substance.

glynn surdivall

October 1st, 2011
10:49 am

Newt has no stated platform unlike Ron Paul and Cain.