Friday, October 28, 2011

Could Herman Cain actually win the nomination?

Recently, Nate Silver had a post arguing that it has never really happened before that a candidate like Herman Cain with such incredibly weak fundamentals has polled so strongly.

By "fundamentals," Silver means the laundry list of factors that would be considered important by any qualified observer of politics for a successful campaign. For example:

Cain has no endorsements from Republican members of Congress or Republican governors, and very few from officials in key early voting states. He has raised very little money. He has not hired well-known names for his campaign staff. He does not have traditional credentials. He has run for elected office just once before. He has begun to get a fair amount of media coverage, but the tenor has been fairly skeptical.

Silver's point, or a good part of it, is that there is no precedent for a candidate like Herman Cain. We don't really have any way to judge whether or not he could be successful, that is to say, whether or not he could win the nomination.

So, while many of us are going around saying that Cain has no chance, Silver is saying that he is not so sure. This may not mean that Cain's chances are any better than slim, it's just that it would be hard to make a reasonable case as to why he could not possibly win. The normal indicators are not helpful. The way we typically analyze things is not available to us.

To put it in more common language, this guy has so little going for him and he's doing so well that we have no idea what is going on and therefore can't discount the possibility that he might win.

One point made by Silver is particularly hard to dismiss:

[I]t would be arrogant to say that the man leading the polls two months before Iowa has no chance, especially given that there is a long history in politics and other fields of experts being overconfident when they make predictions.

As I have said many times, my first political prediction came when I was in my early teens. I swore and would tell anyone who would listen that President Richard Nixon would never resign.

Ever since, I have had a hard time taking my own best guesses about political outcomes seriously. But guess I will and I don't think Cain can win anything, but I do agree that his popularity is in fact such a mystery that I wouldn't bet a lot of money on this one.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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  • We still like Herman Cain. The reason we most like him is because he is not a career politician. He is a regular American, not an elitist. Thank YOU LORD JESUS CHRIST for Herman Cain. GOD BLESS Herman Cain !

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:22 AM  

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