Herman Cain’s campaign is gone, but the political takeaways live on:
1) You must inspire to catch fire. Cain gave Republicans something they hadn’t heard from the other presidential candidates: an inspiring message. Cain gave them a reason to vote for someone, rather than just against someone. And he has a sense of humor. Mitt Romney, who stands to see opponent Newt Gingrich grow stronger from Cain’s implosion, should take note.
2) Our politics need more debates more often. Debates are a great equalizer — if there are enough of them. A candidate with no money can eventually shine through. Any debate beats the canned 30-second TV ads that drive the electorate. Some candidates will flame out like Rick Perry. Some will slowly and steadily rise like Gingrich. Others will do neither and go nowhere, like Jon Huntsman or Michele Bachmann. Some won’t be invited, like Gary Johnson.
3) Florida matters. Cain, a little-known businessman, went from pipsqueak in the polls to giant-killer almost over night when he won the Republican Party of Florida’s Presidency 5 straw poll for presidential candidates in September. But the nation’s most-important swing state only matters so much. The previous RPOF straw poll winners went on to win the national Republican nomination for president. Cain broke the streak.
4) Madison Avenue savvy isn’t enough. A great strength of the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO: He knew all about the power of branding and numbers. But Cain couldn’t sell himself as a studious candidate. He declined to give detailed rebuttals to critics of his 9-9-9 tax plan. And he refused to bone on up basics of foreign policy, from the Cuban Adjustment Act to China’s nuclear stockpile.