Can Herman Cain win by avoiding the media?
Herman Cain may be skirting the media spotlight for now, but to some fans that’s just another badge of honor for the kind of candidate they are looking for: an unpolished nonpolitician.
Under the harsh glare of the media spotlight, Herman Cain has taken a hit for gaffes and stumbles – especially when it comes to foreign policy issues. But in his supporters’ eyes, that’s just another badge of honor for the kind of candidate they’re looking for: an unpolished nonpolitician who brings a businessman’s perspective and an everyman’s style to the presidency.Skip to next paragraph
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At a rally at a hotel in Nashua, N.H., Thursday – his first visit to the first-in-the-nation primary state since sexual harassment claims surfaced – a healthy dose of people showed up to give him a closer look as they size up the GOP candidates.
They found themselves elbow to elbow with some passionate fans – many of them women eager to stand up for a down-to-earth candidate whom they believe can get the country back on the right track.
“He changed careers four times, and came up from being poor to being successful at everything he tried to do,” said Ann-Marie McKenna, who stood on stage behind Mr. Cain during his stump speech. “He’s brilliant, but he talks like a regular person.”
David Ridge, who describes himself as a staunch, pro-life conservative, said, “The more the media attacks him, the more I like him.”
Cain and his supporters defend his ability to surround himself with experts and be a strong leader, without needing to know all the details of foreign policy.
“He’s a good manager. You can’t know everything, but he would pick good people to get the job done,” said Richard Barbalato. He plans to vote for Cain in the primary, and said more people in New Hampshire are warming up to the former Godfather’s Pizza chief executive, judging by the number who give a thumbs up when they see his Cain bumper sticker.
But it will be an uphill battle for Cain, or any other candidate trying to chase Mitt Romney’s strong support in polls here.
Cain showed some slippage in a Bloomberg News poll conducted Nov. 11-12. Among 504 likely GOP primary voters in New Hampshire, just 8 percent say Cain is their first choice (down from 17 percent in a mid-October poll). Mitt Romney is holding at 40 percent, Ron Paul is up to 17 percent, followed by Newt Gingrich at 11 percent. Jon Huntsman Jr. is running neck and neck with Cain at 7 percent.
The Bloomberg poll also hints at how the sexual harassment allegations are influencing voters. Forty-three percent said they would rule out a candidate who has faced such accusations.
But at the Nashua rally, Cain supporters said it was suspicious that the allegations surfaced while Cain was surging in popularity.
Gloria Cain’s defense of her husband earlier this week was another reassuring factor for Ms. McKenna, who said her experience is that “you know your husband.” Others in Nashua said the allegations did give them pause, but hadn’t risen to the level where they’d rule him out.
For W.J. Heath, Newt Gingrich was starting to look like a good choice, until his ties to Freddie Mac surfaced. Now Cain is looking better, he said. Morality is important, he said, but it’s still not clear to him whether the allegations against Cain are true.