The surge in support for businessman Herman Cain, which has placed him in a virtual tie with Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination, has more to do with persistent Tea Party-influenced skepticism for Romney than a national surge of support for Cain.
Despite his conservative credentials, Romney still has not sealed the deal with the Tea Party, which constitutes a significant portion of conservative activists. There have been earlier serious flirtations that challenged Romney. First it was Michele Bachmann, then it was Rick Perry. Waiting in the wings, still hoping to entice Tea Party Republicans as Romney alternatives, are Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
We believe Cain may remain the chief alternative to Romney, however. The black former CEO of Godfather's Pizza is an extremely charismatic, likeable pol whose frankness on the stump is appealing to voters tired of pols who recite poll-tested political dogma. If Romney is to remain the Republican frontrunner and gain the nomination, he should expect a strong challenge from Cain-flavored tea.
The signature piece of Cain's political campaign -- the 9-9-9 tax plan -- is a disaster. The plan -- which would tax individuals and corporations at 9 percent, enact a 9 percent national sales tax and end virtually all income tax deductions -- would significantly increase the taxes on poor and middle-class Americans while keeping taxes on the rich about the same. Also, according to a Bloomberg study, the 9-9-9 tax would reduce tax revenues to the federal Treasury significantly.
Cain also, by his own past admission, knows very little about foreign affairs, including the Middle East and the significant, dangerous foreign policy challenges in that part of the world.