Herman Cain’s campaign folks have to be feeling pretty good today. They’re probably preparing fruit baskets to send out to some would-be GOP presidential competitors.
Starting with Newt Gingrich, who destroyed any chances he might have of getting the GOP nomination for 2012 yesterday on a Meet The Press appearance.
Specifically, Gingrich was asked by host David Gregory about Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposal to revamp Medicare into a voucher/premium-support program – in other words expanding Medicare Advantage to the point where it swallows the whole program – for folks 55 and under. Gingrich called it right-wing social engineering and said it was radical. Then, asked about statements he’d made years ago defending the idea of an individual mandate on heath care, he stood by them.
In other words, on health care Gingrich is Romney, only worse.
What part of “60 percent of the American people want to repeal Obamacare” don’t these guys understand? Health care policy is pretty simple for Republicans in 2012, actually. What you say is that the more the lawyers and the government have gotten involved in the health-care system since the mid-1960’s the more they’ve politicized and disrupted the market. And the way to fix things is to set the market free. Which means no grandiose plan to fix health care, just a lot of simple steps to create more competition in the marketplace.
Like creating an interstate market by letting people buy policies across state lines, for example. Like allowing the market to redefine what a health plan is – for some people it’s a catastrophic care plan, for others it’s a PPO, for others it’s a health savings account, and so forth. Like doing something about med-mal lawsuits which make doctors treat every patient as a potential plaintiff and as such order up a flurry of tests in an effort to cover their read ends.
Most of all, though, the biggest issue in health care is to make it more desirable for people to get into medicine. We don’t have enough doctors, and we’re not doing enough to create more. When med-mal insurance is through the roof and the government is paying half the aggregate medical bill or more, meaning it’s dictating financial headaches in which doctors can’t adequately cover their overhead, the medical business model no longer makes sense. Obamacare makes that problem far, far worse. Ryan’s Medicare plan goes a long way toward making it better since it reduces the health care issue to a patient making his or her own decisions.
Gingrich flubbed that, famously, and went on to prattle about voluntary decisions and outcomes that nobody understands. The result is that he blows a hole through the GOP’s 2012 budget and replaces it with nothing. Does he think the party’s base will reward that?
All he needed to say is Obamacare represents big-government micromanagement, the voters get that and reject it, so the first thing we need to do is repeal Obamacare lock, stock and barrel and let the states and the private sector experiment with solutions. That’s it. Instead, he shot himself in the foot.
Of course, this is classic Newt. Seventy-five percent of the time, he’s brilliant and you think he’s the Winston Churchill of the modern-day GOP. Twenty-five percent of the time is what you saw Sunday. It makes him something of a tragic figure.
While Gingrich is running – badly – Mike Huckabee won’t be. Saturday, Huck said his heart isn’t in the race and though he polls well he thinks he’s better off doing that show on Fox News every Saturday night. And he’s probably right in making that call. Huckabee is a guy who can poll really well with social conservatives and he’s good on TV. But economic conservatives like the folks at the Club For Growth rightly point out that Huck’s record on taxes as governor of Arkansas was a terrible one. And one thread which has emerged from Huckabee’s national political activities is a certain ugly pettiness. Huckabee got so bent out of shape about the Club For Growth’s criticism of his record that he won’t even go to conventions when the Club is there. The latest back-and-forth with Glenn Beck is another example; Huckabee’s endorsement of Michelle Obama’s creepy child-obesity program and all the taxpayer dollars being funneled into salad bars in public schools (can you honestly imagine eating from a salad bar 15-year old high school kids have had a chance to hock loogies into all day long?) that constitutes is a classic affront to small-government conservatism, and in a 2012 election which will be all about the size and scope of the federal government he’s the wrong candidate with the wrong message. Maybe Huck sees that, or maybe he just doesn’t have the fire in the belly. Either way, he’s out.
Huckabee being out of the race probably helps Michelle Bachmann. It’s said it also helps Tim Pawlenty. Or even Rick Santorum. But I think it really helps Herman Cain.
There was a poll last week of Iowa conservatives which had Cain pulling some 23 percent, with Huckabee next at 12 percent. Those were shocking numbers, but I don’t think they’re a fluke. I think Cain has a lot of Huckabee’s appeal, albeit in a different package. Cain is a Southerner, like Huckabee, and he’s also a Baptist pastor like Huckabee is. He has the same regular-guy appeal Huckabee does, though without the guitar. And Cain, like Huckabee, is an advocate of the Fair Tax. But where Huckabee falls short of the requirements of the Tea Party movement on economics, Cain is a Tea Party prototype. His appeal to social conservatism is secondary to his economic message, which makes him a man for the times.
Bachmann, Pawlenty and Santorum all have some of the same credentials. But Cain beat the latter two in that debate in South Carolina, handily, and Bachmann is going to struggle to define herself against the perception the Beltway Elite is trying to create of her as “Sarah Palin Lite.” I don’t know that she can raise enough money to make that happen.
Incidentally, Donald Trump isn’t running either. That’s a smart move on his part – his boomlet is over anyway.
But guess what? Trump getting out helps Cain as well. Trump acquired a constituency largely in response to his flirtations with the birther community, but his appeal comes from being a successful business guy who can get things done, understands finance and doesn’t have a record as a professional politician. Well, that’s Cain too. Trump probably carved out a market for a candidate just like Cain, then he vacated it to leave a hole.
It’s a really good day for the Cain campaign. A really good day.