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Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: Herman Cain

Iowa determined to go first in GOP presidential nomination race

   Hillary-Clinton-New-Hampshire-2008

Herman Cain upset the Republican presidential apple cart with an impressive win Saturday in the Florida straw poll. Now it looks like the Sunshine State could once again disrupt the march toward picking an opponent for President Obama.

According to published reports, Florida's presidential primary could move to Jan. 31, more than a month ahead of schedule. A panel named by Gov. Rick Scott and GOP legislative leaders is expected to complete the move Friday, and that could put the state in hot water with the Republican National Committee.

(UPDATE: And the panel indeed did move the primary to Jan. 31)

According to RNC rules designed to prevent a chaotic rush during primary season, only Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina can hold elections before March 6.

But Florida, which will play host to the 2012 Republican National Convention, in Tampa, wants to have a more central role in picking the nominee. To achieve that, it would run afoul of the RNC, which will dock it about half of its 116 convention delegates.

Speaking to the Miami Herald, Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R-Merritt Island) said: "That's the price we have to pay. I feel bad for those folks who might not be able to be delegates. But ... we'd love to give the entire Republican Party membership in Florida the ability to have an influence on who the nominee would be."

Florida also pulled a similar move in 2008, moving its primary to Jan. 29, and helping to lock up the nomination for Sen. John McCain. Though all the Florida delegates made it to the convention floor in Minneapolis-St. Paul -- with about half being characterized as "honored guests" -- the RNC seems in no mood to make a deal this time.

Also speaking to the Herald, RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said: "Any state that violates the rules will lose half their delegates. This is not a negotiation. These are the rules."

The current schedule has the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 6, followed by the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 14, the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 18, and the South Carolina primary on Feb. 28.

Determined not to be knocked off its perch as the first-in-the-nation caucuses, Iowa will do what it takes to keep its place of honor.

In a statement, Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn said: "The four sanctioned, early states have been very clear that we will move together, if necessary, to ensure order as outlined in RNC rules. If we are forced to change our dates together, we will."

In a Sept. 29 interview on Fox News' "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren," GOP candidate Sen. Rick Santorum (obviously not a disinterested observer), said: "For the life of me, I don't understand what Florida's trying to accomplish, because whatever they're going to accomplish, they're going to fail. ... All you've effectively done is cut off one month of the lead-up time to this primary process."

He also defended the role of the smaller states, saying: "They've had a pretty good track record of taking the responsibility very seriously. ... These states are smaller states. It's manageable for them to meet the candidates, to kick the tires, to find out who these people really are."

Theoretically, Iowa could go as early as the first week of the year.

Democrats avoid all this hullabaloo by having their incumbent run unopposed (at least so far). But if former Clinton advisor Dick Morris is to be believed, the Democratic race could become as complicated as the GOP's.

In a Sept. 21 article on his website, DickMorris.com, the former Democrat strategist writes: "As bad news piles up for the Democrats, I asked a top Democratic strategist if it were possible that President Obama might 'pull a Lyndon Johnson' and soberly face the cameras, telling America that he has decided that the demands of partisan politics are interfering with his efforts to right our economy and that he has decided to withdraw to devote full time to our recovery.

"His answer: 'Yes. It’s possible. If things continue as they are and have not turned around by January, it is certainly possible.' "

Though Morris is leaning toward prediction territory, he's not the first person to publicly suggest the same thing.

On Sept. 18, Steve Chapman, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune (a sister paper of the Los Angeles Times, under the Tribune Co. umbrella), wrote a piece called "Why Obama Should Withdraw."

He wrote: "In the event he wins, Obama could find himself with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress. Then he will long for the good old days of 2011. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner will bound out of bed each day eager to make his life miserable.

"Besides avoiding this indignity, Obama might do his party a big favor. In hard times, voters have a powerful urge to punish incumbents. He could slake this thirst by stepping aside and taking the blame. Then someone less reviled could replace him at the top of the ticket."

And who did he think that someone should be? The answer can be found in the picture at the top of this post, a shot from the New Hampshire primaries of 2008.

RELATED:

Herman Cain handily wins Florida GOP straw poll

Chris Christie won't run but doesn't mind being asked

Herman Cain: 'I'm the president of the United States of America!'

-- Kate O'Hare

Photo: Hillary Rodham Clinton and daughter Chelsea visit Democratic supporters in Nashua, N.H., on primary day, Jan. 8, 2008. Credit: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Herman Cain: 'I'm the president of the United States of America!'

   Herman-Cain-Florida-Straw-Poll

Herman Cain is currently on a roll, following his strong debate performance in Orlando on Sept. 22 with a decisive win last Saturday in the Florida GOP straw poll.

Once considered a second-tier candidate and kind of an afterthought, the former Godfather's Pizza CEO is leapfrogging over half the field to find himself within spitting distance of top-tier status.

So, what's an up-and-coming candidate to do? Release a book, of course. And if you're running for president, you might as well imagine yourself as already being there.

As quoted in an extensive piece at Politico.com, Cain writes in "This Is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House":

“Well, I’m just about at the elevator up to the family quarters. But bear with me for just a minute more as I confirm who I am. It’s obvious; I’m the president of the United States of America!"

The memoir, due out next week from Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, takes Cain from his childhood in Georgia through his career and his battle with Stage Four cancer to his hoped-for triumphant arrival in Washington, D.C., and imagined first term in office.

It's not rare for a candidate to have a book. In fact, Michele Bachmann has her own book coming out in November. But most -- like Perry's and Romney's -- deal with policy positions and political philosophy. Cain takes it a step further by, according to Politico, even discussing the first lady plans of his wife of 43 years, Gloria.

Cain also takes on the assertion that he is not knowledgeable about foreign policy, a charge that could also be leveled at his fellow candidates, former governors Rick Perry and Mitt Romney (and, for that matter, at former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter -- governors all, plus Obama).

This particular issue stuck in the craw of Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly, who challenged recently announced Cain supporter Dennis Miller on Wednesday's "The O'Reilly Factor."

"I like Herman Cain," said O'Reilly. "I like his spirit. I think he presents himself very well. But when he came on 'The Factor' a few weeks ago, he had no clue about foreign affairs. None.'"

Miller responded with a reference to President Obama, saying: "Oh, like the guy in there now does?"

O'Reilly countered with: "Aren't we supposed to improve upon that?"

Take a look at the whole exchange:

Cain also caused some controversy elsewhere on Wednesday, while talking to anchor Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "The Situation Room" (click here for the full transcript).

First, Cain addressed the issue of why most African Americans won't vote Republican, saying: "Because many African Americans have been brainwashed into not being open-minded, not even considering a conservative point of view. I have received some of that same vitriol simply because I am running for the Republican nomination as a conservative."

Cain also said he believes a third to 50% of black Americans are "open-minded," saying: "More and more black Americans are thinking for themselves. And that's a good thing."

It's a position Cain also discussed during a Monday appearance on Fox News Channel's "On the Record With Greta Van Susteren," saying:

"And because the unemployment rate for black people is nearly 17%, instead of the 9%, they're looking for something that's going to boost this economy. And they see that possibility in my 9-9-9 plan.

"That's what's going to peel off the black vote: results, not rhetoric."

(Click here for the full transcript and video.)

Also addressed during the CNN interview was the issue of Perry's support, along with the Texas legislature, for giving in-state tuition discounts to children of illegal immigrants.

This policy got the Texas governor in some hot water in the last GOP debate -- in which he characterized those who disagreed with him as "heartless" -- and earned him a rebuke from his fellow Republican, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, during his speech at the Reagan Library on Tuesday.

In opposing Perry's use of taxpayer funds to subsidize the lower tuition rates, Christie said: "Let me be very clear. From my perspective, that is not a heartless position. That is a common sense position."

Perry even had to do a bit of backpedaling on his "heartless" claim. He told Newsmax in an exclusive video interview posted on Wednesday, that, "I was probably a bit over-passionate by using that word, and it was inappropriate."

Asked on CNN if he agreed with Perry's position, Cain said: "No, absolutely not. Because I happen to believe that that puts children of illegals in front of citizens, in front of soldiers. I don't agree with that. We must first secure the border for real. That's the real problem we need to make sure that we solve. Then, decide later.

"Now, I do agree that it's a state's issue. It's a state's decision. But I don't believe in putting children of illegals, because of compassion, in front of citizens."

Cain also said that, as of right now, that position would prevent him from supporting Perry if he becomes the GOP's eventual nominee:

"Today, I could not support Rick Perry as the nominee for a host of reasons. Him being soft on securing the border is one of the reasons. I feel very strongly about the need to secure the border for real, the need to enforce the laws that are already there, the need to promote the path to citizenship that's already there.

"But, more importantly, empower the states to enforce the national federal immigration laws because the federal government didn't do it, can't do it, and they never will do it. So, that's where I think he and I have a basic fundamental difference of opinion."

Cain did say though, that while he does not support the individual mandate put in place by Mitt Romney in his Massachusetts healthcare bill, he could support Romney as the nominee so long as he vowed to repeal Obamacare.

A new Fox News phone poll is out, placing Cain in third place now with 17%, trailing Romney, who has 23%, and Perry, who has 19%.

(Click here for the full poll results.)

Cain is even making the apparently obligatory visit to New York City to talk with businessman and reality show star Donald Trump on Oct. 3, following the lead of fellow hopefuls Perry, Romney and Bachmann.

RELATED:

Herman Cain handily wins Florida GOP straw poll

Chris Christie won't run but doesn't mind being asked

GOP debate: Rick Perry vs. Mitt Romney, plus Gary Johnson and some dogs

-- Kate O'Hare

Photo: Herman Cain addresses Florida GOP activists in Orlando last Saturday. Credit: Mark Wilson / Getty Images


Chris Christie won't run but doesn't mind being asked

   Chris-Christie-Reagan-Library

Chris Christie, the wildly popular northeastern governor -- at least in GOP circles -- spoke in soaring terms on the subject of American exceptionalism Tuesday evening at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Foundation in Simi Valley.

The theme of the official speech was American exceptionalism -- delivered to an audience that included Nancy Reagan, former California Gov. Pete Wilson and conservative activist Andrew Breitbart.

But the theme of the Q&A that followed was about whether the New Jersey governor would jump into the 2012 Republican presidential race.

(Ciick here and here for a two-part video; and here for the full text, courtesy of The Weekly Standard.)

But first, he was asked about a subject that caused some trouble for a declared candidate, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, in the last GOP debate down in Florida. Defending his decision with the Texas Legislature to grant discounted in-state tuition rates to children of illegal aliens, Perry had said:

"If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they've been brought there by no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart."

Christie took exception to that:

As for the education expense, I've dealt with this problem in New Jersey, and I need to be crystal clear about it. I want every child to be educated, but I do not believe that, for the people who came here illegally, that we should be subsidizing, with taxpayer money, through in-state tuition, their education.

Let me be very clear, from my perspective, that is not a heartless position. That is a common-sense position.

The next questioner addressed the presidential campaign: "Gov. Christie, you're known as a straight-shooter, not one given to playing games. Can you tell us what's going on here? Are you reconsidering or are you standing firm?"

"Listen," said Christie, "I have to tell you the truth -- you folks are an incredible disappointment as an audience." That got big laughs. "The fact that it took to the second question shows you people are off your game. That is not American exceptionalism."

That got bigger laughs.

But then the governor referred his listeners to Politico.com, which today posted a video compilation of Christie's denials that he's running.

Check it out below:

But that didn't retire the subject.

A few minutes later, after Christie told a story about his entitlement curbs earning him boos from some firefighters, ending with, "Real leaders, they don't read polls; they change polls" -- it came up again.

A former New Jersey resident, now in California, praised the governor, said he made her proud and then told him, "My Italian mother, she told me to tell you, you gotta run for president."

After a big burst of cheers and applause, Christie said, "Well, I'm going to press my luck here and respond to that. If I make you proud to be a New Jerseyan and proud to be an American, and your Italian mother wants me to run for president, what the hell are you doing in California? Get back to New Jersey.

"Let's go. Come home, for God's sake. What are you doing out here? I got a plane, you can come right back now if you want. Yeah, come on, meet me by the side over there, we'll take you home ... Getting more taxpayers, one at a time."

But it wasn't over yet.

The very next questioner, an older woman in the balcony, made an earnest plea for him to get into the race.

"Go home and really think about it," she said at the end. "Do it for my daughter, do it for our grandchildren, do it for our sons. Please, sir, don't ... we need you. Your country needs you."

The crowd roared and rose to its feet, while Christie stood, with a stricken and emotional look on his face. But, stricken or not, he had an answer, and here it is:

"This is all I'll say about this tonight, is that I hear exactly what you're saying, and I feel the passion with which you say it. It touches me. I can tell you, I'm just a kid from New Jersey who feels like I'm the luckiest guy in the world to have the opportunity that I have to be the governor of my state.

"So, people say to me all the time now, when folks like you say those kinds of things, for as many months as it's been said, 'Governor, why don't they just leave you alone? You've already given your answer. Isn't it a burden?'

"What I say to you tonight and say to everybody else who was nice enough to applaud what she said,  is that it isn't a burden.

"The fact of the matter is, anybody who has an ego large enough to say, 'Oh, please, please, please, stop asking me to be the leader of the free world, it's such a burden. If you could please just stop.' What kind of crazy egomaniac would you have to be to say, 'Oh, please stop, stop.'

"It's extraordinarily flattering. But by the same token, that heartfelt message you gave me is also not a reason for me to do it. The reason has to reside inside me.

"And so, that's what I've said all along. I know, without ever having met President Reagan, that he must have felt deeply in his heart that he was called to that moment, to lead our country.

"And so, my answer to you is this, I thank you for what you're saying, and I take it in, and I'm listening to every word of it and feeling it, too. Please don't ever think for a second that I feel like I'm important enough in this world that somehow what you're saying is a problem for me. It's a great, great honor. I'm extraordinarily flattered, and I really appreciate you being willing to stand up and say it with the passion that you did.

"That's why this country is a great place, because of folks like you. So, thank you very much."

And with that, the governor left, perhaps finally putting this issue to rest -- or so he hopes, anyway.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ron Paul, who's on his third presidential run, and Gov. Mitt Romney, who's been running steadily since before the 2007 primaries, have to wonder, Where's the love? as the GOP faithful rush to Perry (at least they did, for a while), beg non-candidates Christie and Sarah Palin to run, and deliver longshot Herman Cain a decisive win in the Florida GOP straw poll.

There still seems to be a hole in Republican hearts.

RELATED:

Herman Cain handily wins Florida GOP straw poll

Rick Perry's underwhelming debates: Do they matter?

GOP debate: Rick Perry vs. Mitt Romney, plus Gary Johnson and some dogs

-- Kate O'Hare

Photos/videos: Chris Christie speaks at the Reagan library. Credits: Fox News (screenshot of Christie); Livestream.com/ReaganLibrary (screenshot of Christie and audience).

Herman Cain handily wins Florida GOP straw poll

   Herman-Cain-Fox-News-Google-GOP-debate

Herman Cain, former Godfather's Pizza CEO, followed a strong showing at this week's GOP debate in Orlando by joining most of his fellow Republican presidential candidates in addressing the Faith and Freedom Coalition and the Conservative Political Action Conference, in the same Florida city.

One of those meaningless straw polls followed.

But, wait. This one was different. Cain won. He took nearly 40% of the 2,567 votes cast, far outpacing the purported front-runners, Govs. Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. That's a real PR setback for both losers and sets the stage for much media questioning of Perry about his stumbling campaign.

Romney had claimed he wasn't trying to win the straw poll, even though aides worked the phones, e-mails and aisles for him.

But Perry made an all-out free-breakfast-come-talk-with-me effort. And he lost, rather big-time, to a man who is the favorite of many conservatives, although a longshot to become the GOP's nominee.

Much of the GOP race attention has been focused on the Rock 'Em-Sock 'Em routine that's....

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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