And They’re Off – Herman Cain
Note, this is article is part of a series published today analyzing where things stand with the potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates that attended the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s presidential forum on March 7th.
By Wes Enos
In the months following Republican victories across the country in the 2010 elections, political activity in Iowa seemed to come to an abrupt halt for the first time in almost seven years.
When Terry Branstad was elected governor again in November, many Iowans had believed that presidential candidates would start swarming the state as soon as the final votes were cast in the 2010 elections. However, that has not been the case. The last five months have been virtually devoid of major presidential forays into Iowa leaving political writers left to do stories about influential political activists, available campaign staff, or anything to fill the deafening silence of the full-scale campaign activity they grew accustomed to following the 2006 elections.
However, the slow start to the 2012 caucus seems to be coming to a close now with “potential candidates” now looking, acting and sounding like real candidates.
Monday I had the opportunity to attend the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Spring Kick-Off event at Point of Grace Church in Waukee. This wasn’t the first spring kick-off event I’ve ever been to for IFFC, but it did seem to be the most significant. Typically, the group’s events draw the same crowds of between two and three hundred evangelical activists to hear speeches from speakers like David Barton or Rush Limbaugh’s brother.
Last night’s event drew a crowd of nearly 1,000 curious onlookers, dignitaries, activists and media. The stars of the event were five presidential hopefuls who did not seem coy about their intentions to challenge Barack Obama. Before the event aids to and activists on behalf of several of the speakers scurried around the event grabbing any notable activists, party leaders or elected officials they could find to introduce them personally to their boss. This is a common practice at Presidential caucus oriented events, but it is a practice that at least before last night was not taking place on such a broad scale.
Yes, it seems that our long wait for the start of the 2012 Presidential caucus season is finally over.
In fact, the event was kicked off by the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s National Chairman, Ralph Reed, who opened his remarks by asking the audience if they were ready to meet the successor to Barack Obama? It’s hard for a candidate who is only “toying with the idea of running” to get on stage and address a crowd after an introductory line like that.
After obligatory speeches from Governor Branstad, Congressman Steve King and IFFC President Steve Scheffler, the crowd was finally treated to the first speaker Herman Cain. Cain seemed like a natural fit to kick off the speaking line-up and was easily the most dynamic and engaging speaker of the field of five at the event last night. Cain’s speech offered an interesting contrast to the often sugary “Hope and Change” speeches Iowans heard from then-Senator Obama in 2008.
Like Obama, Cain’s theme focuses on the importance of having a dream and a hope for the future. Yet, unlike Obama’s version, Cain’s hopes and dreams revolve around an end to entitlements, and getting government out of the way so that people can pursue those dreams. It was fairly obvious why Cain has become such a favorite of Tea Party activists in Iowa. His empowerment over entitlement message coupled with great lines like: “The United States of America will not become the United States of Europe! Not on OUR watch!” is tremendously powerful with a crowd like that.
The problem for Cain is that he lacks significant political credentials, which can be good because it gives him an opportunity to package himself however he wants, but it is also a negative because his lack of record will force him to be far more intellectual in his policy proposals than candidates with an actual record will need to be. While last night’s speech was a great rallying cry, it lacked a lot of policy substance which is something that Cain will need to show if he hopes to break out in a race like this.
(Wes Enos is a member of the Republican State Central Committee and was the political director for Mike Huckabee’s victorious 2008 Iowa Caucus campaign.)