Herman Cain, 2004

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 14 2011 10:59 AM

Herman Cain, 2004

The first time I interviewed Herman Cain was in 2006, when I was reporting out a story about black Republicans for one of the many aborted versions of Radar. Cain's 2004 bid for U.S. Senate had never gotten the attention of Michael Steele's bid two years later, for some understandable reasons. Cain had run a business but never won an election; Steele was Lieutenant Governor of Maryland. Cain captured the attention of the right-wing blogosphere, but at that point in time, it wasn't really strong enough to rally around a candidate as it later would for the likes of Nikki Haley and Allen West. Cain wasn't bitter, but he seemed to know he'd tried to challenge the party too early.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

Did Republicans miss a chance by not nominating? Tea Partiers think so: Cain ended up losing to Johnny Isakson, one of the more compromise-friendly conservatives the Senate Republican conference. Cain gave voters all the red meat they could have wanted, spending $3 million to build his image. And he still lost by a 2-1 margin to Isakson. Still, most of his ads survive online.

Advertisement

In this ghostly reminder of a forgotten wedge issue, he stands up for the Pledge of Allegiance: "And I hope the ACLU is listening!"

He hits the same theme here.

In this ad, he defends the Iraq War mostly by demeaning its foes: "The Hollywood crowd is attacking our president."

Here, sounding more contemporary, he talks up a balanced budget.

And here, we get a foreshadowing of the man behind 9-9-9.

This is fun to think about: What would have happened to Herman Cain had he won in 2004? He and Barack Obama would have been the only African-Americans of the Senate. Cain, not Obama, might have been seen as the more likely national candidate -- a black Republican's path to victory, adding a chunk of the black vote to most of the white vote, would be smoother than a black Democrats? But Cain still would have gotten cancer in 2006. If we take his TARP comments from 2008 at face value, he probably would have voted for the bailout -- a vote that weakened Saxby Chambliss in the election months later. No, Cain might be at his absolute strongest now, as a surprise canddiate who has no electoral record, and whose previous campaign is remembered mostly by bloggers.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

The Best Thing About the People’s Climate March in NYC

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

John Oliver Debunks the Miss America Pageant’s Claim That It Gives Out $45 Million in Scholarships

Trending News Channel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Over There
Sept. 22 2014 1:29 PM “That’s Called Jim Crow” Philip Gourevitch on America’s hypocritical interventions in Africa.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 1:37 PM Subprime Loans Are Back! And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.
  Life
Lexicon Valley
Sept. 22 2014 1:22 PM Is Arabic Really Just One Language? 
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM Escaping the Extreme Christian Fundamentalism of "Quiverfull"
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Television
Sept. 22 2014 2:12 PM Crusader, Sans Cape The superhero trappings of Gotham are just a clever disguise.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 12:14 PM Family Court Rules That You Can Serve Someone With Legal Papers Over Facebook
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 22 2014 12:15 PM The Changing Face of Climate Change Will the leaders of the People’s Climate March now lead the movement?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.