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Herman Cain announced he is looking into running for President.  WHO?  Herman Cain.  TRY AGAIN?  Herman Cain is thinking about running for President.  OKAY I’LL BITE – WHO’S HERMAN CAIN?

Herman Cain is actually a very admirable role model.  His bio is impressive – for the private sector.  He rose from humble origins (Cain’s father was a janitor and his mother was a maid) in Georgia to be a CEO of a major corporation:  Godfather’s Pizza.  I remember during my college days that the choice pizza place to take a promising young lady was Godfather’s – they had tasty pizza!

Before he turned around and then bought Godfather’s from its parent corporation, Pillsbury, Cain was in charge of the Burger King division and brought that division up to excellence.  Jack Kemp (a hero of mine) called Cain the “Colin Powell of the restaurant industry.” (Cain is African-American and is a dynamic speaker.)

Cain is no stranger to politics, even though he had never held office.  He was an unsuccessful aspirant in the Georgia Senate primary, losing to Johnny Isakson.  He was cited by the Daily Beast as blowing a huge hole into the former Clinton health care attempt when he challenged the President by saying that he would have to lay off many of his employees if Hillarycare was passed.  When Bill Clinton attempted to challenge that, Cain got the best of that exchange.  Cain also has a radio show on the same station Erick Erickson is on in Atlanta and has stood in for Neil Boortz (That’s one more reason to support Cain!)

Cain needs to look to Wendell Willkie for inspiration.  Wendell Willkie is known to most Americans as the surprise long shot candidate who never held office but yet won the 1940 GOP Presidential nomination (“Win With Willkie”) and then was beat convincingly by FDR.  Willkie actually is more complex that that.  An excellent biography on Willkie (Dark Horse by Steve Neal) is available at a used book dealer.

Willkie was born in a wonderfully named town:  Elwood, Indiana.  He became an attorney and moved first to Akron, Ohio as corporate counsel for Firestone Tire and Rubber Company.  Willkie became involved in local politics (defeating the Klan when it attempted to take over the city council) and was a leader among the local lawyers until he was hired to be a in-house attorney for a new utility holding company, the Commonwealth and Southern, in 1929 and rose to become its president.  He became involved in national politics in an attempt to save his company from being abolished by a New Deal regulation as well as fighting the acquisition of its holdings by the TVA.  Willkie was cited by Neal as besting later Justice Robert Jackson in a radio debate:

“Most political observers gave Willkie the edge on points.  General Hugh S. Johnson wrote in his column that Willkie had made a ‘perfect monkey’ of Jackson.  Raymond Moley, former FDR brain truster, wrote that Jackson had held his own in the opening exchange, but ‘in the rough-and-tumble that followed, Willkie so utterly outclassed him that the Jackson build-up dissolved into the elements from which it came.'”  (footnote omitted)

Willkie was not unknown among the elites who chose the major candidates in the days before primaries; his internationalist positions, communications skills and business success made him a serious candidate.  (Willkie had several liabilities:  He was a Democrat until 1939 and in fact was an Indiana delegate to the 1924 Democratic candidate who voted for John W. Davis and was also unconventional in style.  He also had a long-time mistress.)  However, the long shot, dark horse status, combined with his meteoric rise and his radio presence, made him a darling.  The galleries, packed covertly with Willkie supporters, screamed their support (“We Want Willkie”) at every opportunity.  On the sixth ballot in Philadelphia, Willkie bested the future “Mr. Conservative”, Robert Taft and selected Senator Charles L. McNary of Oregon as his running mate.

Although Willkie lost, he won the respect of FDR so much that he was sent abroad as a good will ambassador and was openly considered by BOTH conventions for Vice President.  He also argued and won an important civil liberties case at the United States Supreme Court (Schneiderman v. United States) and was planning to create a new liberal third party.  Willkie also worked hard for civil rights, especially in the movie industry.

But there was another dark horse candidate in 1940:  Newspaperman Frank Gannett (as in the Gannett newspapers) also ran for President.  Steve Neal is withering in his criticism of the candidacy, describing it as vain and superfluous.  Surely Gannett ran a fine chain of newspapers:  The Gannett media empire is still around (They publish the USA Today for example) and it has a great history.  it is clear Frank Gannett was an effective businessman.  Time magazine in 1940 described him like this:

One of his claims to votes is that he knows how to make a business go. The evidence is his Gannett Company, Inc., which is valued at $25,000,000, in 1938 showed a net profit of $1,145,165 (which its 4,000 employes shared). Sound, stolid, rocky as Publisher Gannett himself are the Gannett newspapers. Mostly they are concentrated in upstate New York, with outposts in New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois. Many are Republican (Mr. Gannett let the Democratic Hartford, Conn. Times support Roosevelt in 1936).

But as a Presidential candidate, Gannett was a joke.  His candidacy did little but feed the thirst of numerous delegates for adult beverages.

I do believe that Herman Cain is more serious than Frank Gannett; I believe he recognizes that there is a fine line between long shot (Ron Paul) and joke (Cook County GOP Chair John Cox).  Cain needs to express his origins, how he was a success in everything he has ever done and that he has the gravitas to be President.  He certainly can point to Carly Florina and Meg Whitman as examples of the transition from the corporate world to the political one.  The problem is both Florina and Whitman lost.  Cain’s forensic style is formidable.  He may be able to bring some minorities into the GOP.  Cain’s best point is that many Americans are looking for a non-politician who has proven success and talents.  It is closest to 1940 of any election in modern history.  (Proof:  Donald Trump is primed to get into the Presidential race!)  If I were giving advice to Herman Cain, I would suggest he needs the type of Internet support that Ron Paul has now.  This is the 21st Century manner that a long shot becomes a contender.  It worked for Cong. Paul.  If Cain’s real ambition is to be Vice President, the primaries might be a vetting process for him.  However, Cain will have to make sure he does not fatally antagonize the ultimate winner.  I will remain with Ron Paul unless he does not run; if not, maybe former NM Governor Gary Johnson or perhaps…we’ll just see.


About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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