Is Herman Cain a contender?
Michael Barone thinks so, but, if so, as I wrote last week, that says more about the embarrassing weakness of the Republican presidential field than about Cain himself.
There's no denying that Cain is doing fairly well in the polls and is supported enthusiastically within the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, that is, within much of the GOP's base. He's an outsider, which plays well these days, and since he doesn't have a political record he can say whatever he wants without embarrassing revelations about not being ideologically pure enough for the extremists on the right (for example, as Perry has been called out for being "soft" on undocumented immigration).
And his anti-Muslim bigotry is perfect for the Republican Zeitgeist.
With Perry possibly tanking and therefore with no credible conservative alternative to Romney, Cain has a shot, no doubt, and it helps that as a black man he can be a cover for the right's not-so-subtle racist assault on President Obama.
But... really? Herman Cain? Is that really the choice Republicans will make? Please.
The base may go its own way during the primaries, even if the establishment rallies around Romney, but Republicans are as much about power as they are about ideology, if not more so, and they really want to win, to take down Obama, whom they regard, as you know, as the personification of anti-American evil. And Cain just isn't "electable," as they say, not in a general election.
Sure, he's become something of a contender, but I'd say that's a mirage. There's a long way to go, and he won't stay near the top for long. Unless the Republican field remains as lousy (for Republicans) as it is now.