To all of those readers who say I should pay more attention to the rising presidential campaign of Republican Herman Cain, I am happy to announce that he has it.
And to all those who ask, "Who the heck is Herman Cain?" I respond: You know, the pizza guy.
Known as the business whiz who brought the Godfather's Pizza chain back from extinction, whether or not we wanted him to, citizen Cain stole the show at April's presidential debate. A post-debate focus group of the Grand Old Party's voters led by consultant Frank Luntz overwhelmingly decided that Cain won and his poll ratings surged.
That didn't surprise those who have seen the 65-year-old speak. He has his own radio talk show and appears regularly as a Fox News guest commentator, two positions that recently have become almost a prerequisite for Republican candidacy.
He tells a stirring narrative as a cancer survivor who solves problems and hates what big government and big liberals have done to people. No problem there either, as far as the GOP's right wing is concerned.
A nationwide Gallup poll of Republican voters released before the Memorial Day weekend shows Cain with 8 percent support. That wouldn't sound like much, except in the Grand Old Party's currently crowded field, it put him ahead of Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum and not all that far behind front-runner Mitt Romney, who received only 17 percent.
In a simultaneous CNN Poll of Republican voters he tied with Newt Gingrich, close behind Ron Paul, Sarah Palin and Romney. Among Tea Party supporters, Cain came in second in that poll only to Rudy Giuliani, who has not indicated he wants to run.
Still, Cain has yet to win much respect from Republicans who care about winning elections. He was dismissed as "entertainment" by conservative Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer, for example, and less-than-serious by Fox pundit Karl Rove, the former George W. Bush strategist.
But Cain shrugs off the naysayers and double-dog dares the media to look for gaffes, stumbles and "gotchas" in his record. "And to my critics who are scouting for more of my weaknesses to write about," he wrote in response to Rove and Krauthammer and others, "I will give you three you have not discovered yet. I don't know everything. I don't pander to groups. And I am terrible at political correctness."
I suppose he was referring to his recent appearance on Fox News when he did not seem to know what the "right of return" was, although it is a key issue in the Middle East peace process. "It would have helped if (interviewer Chris Wallace) would have said Palestinian right of return," said Cain in a later Washington Post interview. He also is "currently reading a book on Israel," said the Post. Good. Better late than never. I hope it's a good book.
And, when it comes to political correctness, I'm sure Cain is talking about such projects as the 2006 radio ad that he placed on black-oriented radio stations to promote the GOP vote. A sample dialogue from the ad campaign, for which with the New York Sun reported the Cain-backed America's PAC raised almost $1 million, went like this:
Unidentified Male Voice: "... So, I suppose you want me to vote Republican, like you and your soldier buddies?"
CAIN: "Not at all, you've got no reason to."
UMV: "How's that?"
CAIN: "Well you don't work for a living, so what do you care about keeping taxes low?"
UMV: "Hey that's cold!"
CAIN: "You cheat on your wife, so why would you want an amendment to protect marriage?"
UMV (proudly): "Hey, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do...!"
CAIN: "And if you make a little mistake with one of your hos, you'll want to dispose of that problem tout suite, no questions asked."
UMV: "No, now that's too cold! I don't snuff my own seed.
CAIN: "Huh? Really? Well maybe you do have a reason to vote Republican!"
Translation: If you don't vote Republican, you must be a lazy, shiftless, oversexed, unpatriotic, soldier-hating, baby-killing, deadbeat parent who makes babies with his "hos." My comment: With ads like this, Republicans don't need Democrats to sink their image.
(Clarence Page is a syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune. E-mail responses may be sent to email@example.com.)