The recent surge by Herman Cain to the top of the GOP field was not fueled by the tea party. The tea party was the first to embrace Mr. Cain because of his 9-9-9 tax plan and because he speaks like a businessman rather than a politician, which is very appealing to us. Rather, the surge was due to the establishment Republicans flocking to Mr. Cain's side as he was vetted.
Unfortunately, that vetting has produced more questions about Mr. Cain than it has answered. Even before the allegations of sexual harassment became public, there were those of us in the tea party who questioned Mr. Cain's support of the TARP bailout, his praise of former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, and the problems he displayed in explaining his own 9-9-9 plan in the last Republican debate. The allegations of sexual harassment are simply the cherry on top.
While the initial reaction will likely be that Mr. Cain's supporters circle the wagons around him to fend of what many perceive as an unfair attack of unspecified accusations by anonymous sources, the fact remains that settlements were paid out, and nominating Mr. Cain would likely mean taking the risk that a week before the general election in 2012, two, three, or more women would step forward to give interviews describing the harassment they suffered at the hands of Mr. Cain. If Mr. Cain got that far, the pressure to come forward would be enormous, the spotlight would huge, and the women would feel compelled to make their allegations sound as disturbing as possible to justify filing the accusations. When shown in contrast to President Barack Obama walking hand in hand with Michelle with daughters at their side, the imagery would certainly be worth many votes.
But the tea party is not left without candidates to choose from. The whole focus of the tea party is on fiscal sanity. It may have escaped the notice of many, but Mr. Cain is not the only one rising in the polls. Having replaced his campaign staff, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has been surging and is beginning to pick up the pace in donations. He has clearly won the debates, something even James Carville admitted when he was Anderson Cooper's guest on CNN after the last debate. He is a wily campaigner with an encyclopedic knowledge of political history. And the fact the he held the purse strings as Speaker of the House during the Clinton administration when the nation last balanced its budget has enormous appeal. There is a perception that the tea party is a fanatical group looking for an outsider who will blow up the system. The truth is we are looking for someone who will balance budgets, someone who will fight Obamacare and who will bring back prosperity. There's no doubt in my mind Speaker Gingrich would do all that. So, while Mr. Cain's apparent imminent decline is sad because he appealed to us, there are other options.
Fred Pasek, FrederickCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun