Opinion

Cain is a leader

Martha Zoller Contributor

Team Georgia had a great day on Saturday. After the stumbling entry into the race by Georgia’s Newt Gingrich last week, the momentum behind former CEO and talk show host Herman Cain began to grow. By the time he announced on Saturday in front of a crowd of more than 10,000 people in Centennial Olympic Park, he had started getting “some respect.”

On Thursday night, Cain called me. He and I had been radio hosts together and, in fact, I had offered him his first opportunity to do live radio as a host after his 2004 U.S. Senate primary loss in Georgia. He said, “Martha, I’d like you to emcee for me on Saturday.” Of course, I said yes.

Herman Cain wasn’t going to just announce on YouTube. He wasn’t going to just tweet his announcement. And while he did those things, he also had an old-fashioned outdoor revival of an announcement with the use of video, music and a speech.

The day went off without a hitch and there was much buzz about Herman Cain’s ascension in the polls. While Gallup shows that Cain has an issue with name recognition, his supporters are extremely enthusiastic about his candidacy.

I was encouraged by the diversity of the crowd. There were Tea Partiers, Republican standard-bearers, young people and people of color.

This has been a long journey for Cain. He’s been thinking about running for president since 2000. He ran for the United States Senate in 2004 and placed second in the primary. He’s made it clear that he doesn’t want to place second this time.

Cain’s announcement has invited the inevitable media scrutiny. Cain did an interview with Fox News within minutes of his announcement and was criticized for going there first, but there’s a simple reason he did. A Fox News producer saw me at the event and asked me to ask Cain if he would do an interview. I did, and Cain said yes. There was no pre-planning; it was a good news producer working his contacts to get the first interview.

When I worked the crowd myself, I found that people were talking about Cain’s leadership and common sense. Some didn’t know that much about him but wanted to know more. They believed what he said and felt that he was accessible.

On Sunday morning, Cain appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. Wallace asked about Cain’s thoughts on the debt ceiling. Cain does not support raising it. He criticized Congress and the president for not even beginning negotiations on the debt ceiling until we had already reached it.

Then Wallace moved on to foreign policy. Cain said he would not offer the Palestinians anything because he was not convinced that they are negotiating in good faith. When Wallace asked Cain if he supported the right of return, Cain paused — either because he didn’t know what the right of return is or because he was gathering his thoughts. It was not the best moment for Cain in a weekend full of high points. However, when pressed by Wallace, he said he did support the right of return for Palestinians to Israel, provided it was negotiated between the parties.

Finally, Wallace pressed Cain on his position that he wouldn’t offer a plan for Afghanistan until he was in office. Cain clarified by saying he didn’t have all the intelligence information necessary to make an informed decision, but said that if he were elected, he would use the time between his election and his inauguration to formulate a policy. He went on to say that any candidate who says they have all the answers at this time isn’t being candid. The question is, do we expect our candidates to have all the answers?

Clearly, Cain’s strength is domestic issues. He has been a successful businessman, he’s been president of the Kansas City Federal Reserve, and he’s headed professional organizations and served on boards. He’s been placed in difficult business situations and succeeded. He didn’t know much about the “lay of the land” when he started in these positions, but he was able to get up to speed quickly and formulate and implement policy. He was a leader. A leader does not have to know everything about everything. A leader does have to know how to get information and formulate a strategy.

With Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump and Mitch Daniels taking themselves out of the race for president, there’s an opportunity for candidates like Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty to compete with the frontrunners, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. This is a day-to-day race, with the first prize being the Iowa caucuses. You can’t get ahead of yourself — you have to take it one day at a time.

Martha Zoller is a political analyst and conservative talk show host for WXKT FM 103.7 in Gainesville, Georgia and syndicated on The Georgia News Network. She is one of the Talkers Magazine “Heavy Hundred” Talk Shows in America. She can be seen regularly on cable news. She is the author of “Indivisible: Uniting Values for a Divided America.” Email her at martha@marthazoller.com.