For the past few weeks, I've had a recurring suspicion that the several gaffes of Herman Cain are in fact "gaffes." As in intentional. Deliberate. Planned.
Allow me to explain.
21 years ago, I watched closely as a complete political neophyte announced his intention to run as governor of Massachusetts. He was John Silber, president of Boston University. Silber was a staunch Reaganite, a native TEXAN, a blunt-spoken anti-activist authoritarian university president, a big-business booster, and a Democrat. And he was running to be nominated by the Massachusetts Democratic Party. What chance, huh?
Well, to make matters "worse," Silber started his campaign with a series of shocking "gaffes." From disparaging gay rights to attacking feminism and peaceniks to questioning why "immigrants from tropical climates" move to the wintry Bay State (of course for it's generous welfare benefits), Silber missed no opportunity to defame the hideous ideology that dominated the Democratic Party of Massachusetts.
Of course the house organ of that hideous ideology, the Boston Glob, responded with off-the-charts venom to these "Silber shockers," as the candidate himself dubbed them. For about 9 months he was lampooned as a joke...until the primary approached...Because Silber was polling about 25% in a 3 way race. Even the NYT noticed in July: "Despite waging an unusual, provocative campaign that has broken many of the rules of politics and offended some women, blacks and the elderly, John R. Silber is running more strongly than expected in the Massachusetts race for governor and could be in position to win the Democratic nomination in September."
The pattern of the "Silber shockers" was firmly established: Silber would make his comment in an interview or debate; the comment would be the focus of attention for 2-5 days; Silber would be righteously questioned and re-questioned about the comment, which he would then repeat in slightly less inflammatory terms, but still defend it; and interested voters would have heard Silber make and repeat his point about 5 times more than if he hadn't made the "gaffe."
But in September he was still down by ~15 points to the front-runner, a career hack named Frank Bellotti, when about a week before the primary, the other establshment candidate, Evelyn Murphy (Dukakis' lt. governor) fell on her sword to "guarantee" the win for Bellotti. "We can't allow even the chance of John Silber winning the nomination." And how did our famous "newspaper of record" report this development? "Ms. Murphy's action therefore appeared likely to deal a further blow to Mr. Silber, a political maverick whose public standing has been slipping in the past few weeks after he made barbed comments that have alienated many voters."
With Murphy out, Bellotti's lead jumped to 23 points in the polls. Those wonderful, wonderful polls. Keep watching those polls, people. The polls are everything, don't you know? How can an old pro like Frank Bellotti blow a 23 point lead in 5 days?
Five days later, Silber beat Bellotti by 10 points, a 33-point swing. The absurdly politically incorrect Reaganite Texan became the nominee for governor of the Massachusetts Democratic Party. And the old grey lady sobbed into her gin-drenched cornflakes: "In a stunning display of voter discontent, John R. Silber, the president of Boston University who peppered his campaign with provocative remarks, scored a major upset tonight over over Francis X. Bellotti, a former State Attorney General in the Democratic primary for governor."
Which is a long way of explaining why my spidey senses are tingling these days when so many people are saying Herman Cain's gaffes are proof his candidacy is doomed. The latest is this extremely unusual--I'll refrain from saying "strange"--ad that just aired during the World Series [embedded above]. OMG, a campaign staffer blowing smoke at the camera?! Can anyone else remember the last TV ad that showed a non-evil character just...smoking...a cigarette? It's just a...SHOCKER!
Mr. Cain is nothing if not a skilled communicator. Yet it seems that, as soon as more eyes than ever are turned on him, that he becomes a fumblemouth. And wasting huge, scarce campaign dollars on a bizarre ad. Even Brit Hume has written him off.
Mr. Cain has come from nowhere, with almost no money, and no political experience, to the top of the polls. Now he's being dismissed as a gaffe machine. But I'm telling you, he's as dumb as a fox.