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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Going Down to the Bottom of the Base

When marginal candidates make it momentarily big, and then start slipping towards their natural level of support, they generally have two choices: riding it all out with dignity and building up capital for future campaigns, or getting down and dirty with hard-core supporters and trying to bubble back up on a wave of notoriety.
2012 presidential candidate Herman Cain seems to be taking the latter path. For a brief moment this spring, he was the “It” candidate, beloved of the Tea Party folk and lighting up audiences in the early Caucus and primary states. Then his stock speech got a little old; he didn’t do well in the first big candidate debate; he didn’t raise much money; and his Iowa and New Hampshire staff started abandoning him, muttering that he wasn’t running a serious campaign.
So Cain has now apparently made his choice and headed for the fringes, making himself notorious as the candidate who, well, doesn’t like Muslims or maybe even Mormons.
Right when most of us had charitably forgotten the 2010 campaign cycle’s plague of Republican attacks on mosque construction and the phantom threat of Shariah Law, Cain has brought it all back up. He showed up at an anti-mosque rally in Murfreesboro, Tennessee–not an early primary venue–to fan the flames of bigotry in that community, and get some national attention.
And now he’s drifting across another civic line and gratuitously suggesting that Mitt Romney can’t win in the South because of his religion.
It’s not clear at this point if Cain thinks this sort of pandering to the worst instincts of GOP primary voters will revive his campaign, or he’s just building a future audience for radio shows and books. But in any event, the former pizza king is giving us all some heartburn we don’t need.

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