Could Herman Cain actually become the person who faces President Obama in the general election? The Republican presidential hopeful is riding high after a surprising and stunning victory in last weekend’s Florida straw poll. He says that the win has given his campaign momentum and is proof that he could go on to win his party’s nomination. I seriously doubt it, but a man can dream, can’t he?
Still, he’s got people talking. There’s no doubt that such a matchup certainly would be one of history’s most interesting and widely watched contests. At one point people never imagined that Obama, or any African-American, would make it to the White House so soon. And Obama's election was part of the reason why Republicans then moved to elect Michael Steele, the first African-American to serve as chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Indeed, Cain and Steele do share some traits. Each knows how to rouse a crowd with a winning smile, sharp wit and straight talk that strikes a chord in the hearts of the conservative faithful. But as Obama has learned in many difficult ways, there’s a huge difference between being a candidate and being in office, and those lessons would give him a distinct advantage, particularly during debates.
It also could provide some very awkward moments. At last week’s Republican debate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the presumptive frontrunner, “threw up all over himself,” as the pundits are saying, stumbling in some responses and choking on others. I can’t quite picture Cain doing that, but a good sound bite is not the same as a solution to the nation’s economic problems that the next president will face, whomever he will be. (Yes, he, because Rep. Michele Bachmann may have even less of a chance of becoming the Republican nominee than Cain does at the moment.)
Having to debate Cain would put Obama in an untenable position, too. He’s been through the trenches, but as Joe Biden had to before facing off with Sarah Palin, the president would definitely have to go through some serious debate prep to practice how not to appear superior and condescending to a man who is well liked, no matter what one thinks of his opinions, and several years his senior.
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(Cain Photo: AP /John Raoux, Obama Photo: AP/Jacquelyn Martin)