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Nels Abbey
Could Obama’s greatest threat be a black Republican?

CONTENDER: Herman Cain

COULD OBAMA face serious opposition from a Republican who happens to be black during his 2012 re-election bid? Probably not. But if you asked the sharpest political expert in 2006 if Hillary Clinton would face serious opposition from anyone, let alone a black political unknown with a name that rhymes with Osama, the answer would have been the same: probably not. The rest is history… for some, and continued misery for most.

But a week is a very long time in politics. The same way Obama, seemingly over months, became a political star and conquered perhaps the best oiled campaign machine in the history of man (the Clintons), might there be someone in the wings of the Republican party who could, well, do ‘an Obama’ to Obama?

If I was a betting man I’d be in William Hill looking up the odds on an African-American chap called Herman Cain right now.

Weeks ago Herman was just an average former CEO of a large pizza corporation. Then Fox News held an early Republican presidential ticket debate. The line-up included Republican ‘hopefuls’ Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty, Gary Johnson and Herman Cain. Herman, the least known of all the candidates, convincingly won the debate.

The front runners such as Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin were missing, but that only worked as a bonus for Herman. If they had been there anything they said or didn’t say would have become the story. The fact that they were not there allowed Herman to become the story. The debate couldn’t have worked out better for Herman. He went from a political nobody to a long-shot contender for the most important job in the world – in a single debate.

Brilliance, anonymity and skin tone aside, what sets Herman apart from his Republican rivals is the fact that he is not technically a politician. He has not ever been elected to office in his life. The closest he’s come to mainstream politics is an impromptu televised town hall debate against Bill Clinton in 1992 – he was an audience member and the topic was healthcare reform costs. Yes, he won that debate too.

In this age of huge distrust of politicians, Herman, a well regarded businessman, could be at an advantage simply as a result of not being a Washington insider but a man of commerce and common sense solutions.

Equally as important, Herman has a God-given gift of the gab that even Obama would admire (maybe Herman should check to see if he has Irish roots).

Herman’s appeal is so broad that he has garnered the admiration and support of the right-wing, near totally white, Tea Party. And why wouldn’t they admire him?

He speaks their language (anti-abortion, low tax whilst somehow simultaneously achieving low debt, pro-gun, small government, anti-government healthcare programmes, anti-gay rights, etc) more fluently than any of the Republican front-runners, with the exception perhaps of Michele Bachmann. He is a fiscal and social conservative’s conservative a thousand times through.

Finally, if Obama’s America proves anything, it proves that a majority of Americans of all shades will vote for competence over complexion. Could he give Obama a run for his money in 2012? He certainly thinks so.

Some would argue that Herman is what America needs right now, but he remains an outsider for good reason: he is neither new nor special (Alan Keyes anyone?). The road to the White House is littered with the failed ambitions of many brilliant men and Hillary Clinton.
What will make Herman’s campaign ‘serious’ is what makes all presidential campaigns ‘serious’ – money.

Intelligence, brilliance, experience and debating skills may help, but, as George Bush proved, money goes all the way.

Will Herman be able to raise ‘serious’ money? Probably not. But this is, after all, America we’re ‘speaking’ about – much stranger things have happened.

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