Herman Cain is in the midst of a meteoric rise from fringe candidate to front-runner in the 2012 presidential campaign. The Cain campaign experienced a gigantic leap in both poll numbers and fundraising in the last few weeks but that doesn't mean commentators are treating him like a typical top-tier candidate. The New York Times, Politico, and U.S. News opinion blogger Susan Milligan all doubt that Cain is a "serious" candidate. Sure his 9-9-9 tax plan, his electric border fence idea, and his lack of political experience all raise eyebrows. But oftentimes, it's Cain's offbeat sense of humor, often manifesting in "free-wheeling" soundbites, that makes many commentators roll their eyes at the prospect of a President Herman Cain.
When asked if he was the GOP's flavor of the week, Cain quipped that he was "Häagen-Dazs black walnut," but that he was here to stay because it "tastes good all the time." Discussing his debate preparedness, Cain joked, "When they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, I'm going to say: 'You know? I don't know. Do you know?'" Recently, a YouTube video of Cain singing "Imagine there's no pizza" to the tune of John Lennon's "Imagine" in 1991 went viral and proved that Cain showed off his sense of humor long before he decided to run for president. He also said he was joking about building an electrified border fence on the southern U.S. border, though he later backtracked on his backtrack.
Humor can be a risky tool for politicians, especially if a joke offends or falls flat. But Cain, unlike some of his other 2012 GOP rivals, seems to nail nearly all his jokes, to the delight of many audiences. Humor can also make voters wonder if a candidate has any "substance" behind his or her "style." For the GOP primary, Cain is up against perennial front-runner Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, who is often called "robotic." If he wins the nomination, he faces President Obama, who has been described as "cool" and "cerebral." Perhaps Cain's sense of humor, endearing to many voters, is part of the cause of his recent surge, and may be an asset after all.
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Previously: Should Obama Endorse Occupy Wall Street?