Herman Cain in Des Moines, IA, Oct. 22, 2011.
Herman Cain in Des Moines, IA, Oct. 22, 2011. Nati Harnik/AP
There are people out there really saying it's impossible for Herman Cain to get the Republican presidential nomination?
Apparently there are and Nate Silver at the FiveThirtyEight blog warns them that it's much safer to say it's highly unlikely than impossible.
I've been chastened enough by experience to know this first hand. I recall telling colleagues in 2004 there was no way enough Illinois primary voters would vote for a U.S. Senate candidate with the unusual name, for U.S. politics at least, of Barack Obama. He won in a landslide.
So it's better not to be categorical about these things.
Silver mentions a dare he tweeted, asking if any political analyst was willing to state absolutely that Cain couldn't win the GOP nomination and, furthermore, that the analyst would quit if proven wrong. He found at least two.
Frankly, I think it is quite arrogant to say that the man leading in the polls two months before Iowa has no chance, especially given that there is a long history in politics and other fields of experts being overconfident when they make predictions.
One reason that experts make overconfident predictions is because they often aren't held accountable when they are wrong. So in an effort to raise the stakes, I asked on my Twitter feed whether there were any experts willing to gamble their jobs on their predictions and would promise to stop writing about politics if Mr. Cain in fact wins the nomination. There is absolutely no reward to taking this bet — however, if you believe that Mr. Cain's chances are truly zero, there is also absolutely no risk.
I did get a couple of takers. Much to his credit, Dan Conley, a former speechwriter for Gov. Douglas Wilder, said he would "quit political opinion writing forever" if Mr. Cain is nominated. And Gary Connelly, who writes about politics for The Springfield Post-Gazette, said he would quit covering politics for The Gazette if Mr. Cain wins.
Again, Cain faces some fairly long odds. Many of his difficulties are of his own making. The New York Times' Susan Saulny reports that if the Cain campaign strikes you as eccentric and improvisational, that's because it is, according to former aides.
A man who pitches himself as a problem-solver and manager has failed to solve the problems and manage his own campaign. It's a picture inconsistent with his becoming a presidential nominee of one of the two major parties.
Management problems extended to important events. In July, a businessman and Tea Party supporter, Bill Hemrick, invited some 200 friends to the private Standard Club in Nashville to meet Mr. Cain. Mr. Hemrick said the Cain campaign had asked him to serve as its financial chairman for Tennessee.
After speaking to the crowd, Mr. Cain was to attend a private club dinner for a select group of conservatives, who were in a position to donate the $2,500 maximum.
But somehow Mr. Cain forgot, or his staff failed to follow through. After his speech, Mr. Cain called to thank Mr. Hemrick for the evening. "I said, 'I'll see you upstairs,' Mr. Hemrick recalled, where the potential donors had gathered. "He said, 'Well, I'm at the airport.' "
"I thought, wow, good communication there," Mr. Hemrick said.
It also could help explain why Cain has had such trouble raising money, even as he has trended higher in the polls.