Posted Friday, Oct. 28, 2011, at 11:53 AM
It was late in Fox News's prime time on September 27 that she told Greta Van Susteren this:
Take Herman Cain. He’s doing so well right now. I guess you could say, with all due respect, he’s the flavor of the week.
Since then we've had two presidential debates, and Cain's survived them. When Palin made her comment, Cain was at 5.5 percent in the RealClearPolitics national poll average. The next day, a Fox News poll would peg him at 17 percent; right now, he's at 25 percent in the polling average.
Palin's lack of faith was amusing, but not uncommon. John Dickerson writes today on why Cain's surge isn't going to fade so fast. (One reason I'd add here is that Cain already had a boomlet, back in May, and he's experiencing his second boost.)
Perhaps the thickest part of the cushion for Cain is that his conservative voters don't have anywhere else to go. Michele Bachmann was eclipsed by Perry. That isn't going to happen to Cain. There aren't any eclipsing figures left. Gingrich is having a slight burble of resurgence but he's unlikely to become the new flavor; one of the qualities of being a flavor of the month is that people don't know much about you. Gingrich, for better or worse, is the best known of the bunch. Perry has a long uphill slog to regain what Cain took from him, which will be hard to do in part because Cain is more appealing to voters.
How do we know that Cain is more appealing? Gallup's polling on affinity for candidates found that Cain, consistently, had the broadest appeal to Republicans. Dan Balz locked that CW in amber this week with this story about a focus group that was extremely warm on Cain and saw Perry as a bully. A lot of that is just native to the two men -- Cain is possibly the most good-natured national candidate I've ever seen -- but part of it is related to how they've handled the issues that annoyed their bases. When Perry was challenged on immigration, he said that anyone who opposed his college tutition plan "didn't have a heart." We didn't even get to discuss the merits of the plan, just the fact of Perry's disregard for critics. Cain's big gaffe this month was a mushy abortion answer to Piers Morgan, which he immediately tried to apologize for and clean up. It did some damage, but not Perry-level damage.