Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Cain Bubble

It's no surprise that the political press is giving Herman Cain nearly Palinist coverage in terms of hype. And its fixation on Cain's frontrunner status in the polls is nearly Pavlovian. Even folks as smart as Slate's John Dickerson have succumbed to writing stuff like: "Cain is no longer flavor of the week—he’s a regular menu item." You see, Cain, is like nothing we've ever seen before, Dickerson asserts. Ergo, the laws of gravity have been suspended and anything is suddenly possible, no matter how absurd.

The last time I heard such crazy talk was during the peak of the housing bubble. Against all logic and history, friends and family members alike kept insisting to me that housing prices would never, ever, fall again. They were like the torture victim (John Hurt) in 1984 who finally agreed that his dystopian tormentor, Richard Burton, was holding up five fingers when in fact he was showing only four. For them (and the Wall Street predators who feasted on their delusion), it truly was a Brave New World -- and I'd be absolutely balmy not to snap up a McMansion or two with a nothing-down loan. We know how that movie ended, right?

Fortunately, a few political analysts have not taken leave of their senses. As Nate Silver correctly observes, Herman Cain is a classic outlier. Sure, he's the talk (if not the toast) of the town. Since they cannot explain Cain, many seem to think that this gifted charlatan must therefore be on some mysterious glide path to the Republican nomination. Because, you know, This Time It's Different. But if one pulls the curtain aside, as Silver does, then the con artist operating the smoke-machine levers as he speaks through a megaphone plainly emerges.
Cain Silver writes: "Mr. Cain has no endorsements from Republican members of Congress or Republican governors, and very few from officials in key early voting states. He has raised very little money. He has not hired well-known names for his campaign staff. He does not have traditional credentials. He has run for elected office just once before. He has begun to get a fair amount of media coverage, but the tenor of it has been fairly skeptical. His campaign commercials have been … interesting."
Silver sensibly concludes that while the odds of Cain winning the nomination is not zero (or infinity-to-1 against), they are slim (he posits 50-to-1 against). My money's on Silver.

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