Via Johnny Dollar, so overwhelming is the reaction that Luntz is visibly taken aback. I thought Cain did well but never would have guessed that he connected this deeply. But then, he was the only true grassroots conservative onstage. Paul and Johnson are off-the-beaten-path libertarians, Santorum is an ex-Senator regarded by many (unfairly) as a one-dimensional social con, and Pawlenty is an establishment fave whose goal is to play it safe to preserve his core virtue of electability. Cain’s the one guy among them who’s in sync with the base across the board, plus he has the virtue of being the only one who hasn’t held elected office. If you’re looking for a political outsider, look no further. Cain’s also a radio host and frequent public speaker so he’s probably the most practiced, accomplished communicator among the five. That was a valuable advantage, especially with that group setting the bar low. And — here’s my half-assed pet theory — it could be that he benefited from being the only southern candidate onstage, either because some in the audience knew that he’s from Georgia or because they picked up regional cues in his accent, choice of idioms, etc. (Yes, I know Paul is from Texas, but he grew up in Pennsylvania and isn’t a conventional Texas Republican.) Liberals will scoff at the idea of a South Carolina audience favoring a black candidate over four white ones simply because he’s from the south, but SC just elected Tim Scott and Nikki Haley in November and Allen West is probably the biggest grassroots rock star in conservative America these days. I don’t like regional politics as a rule, but given the way righties are frequently demagogued as racist, it’s sweet to think that Herman Cain could have had de facto home field advantage — in South Carolina.
The best evidence that he made a mark last night isn’t the video, actually. It’s the fact that a person or persons unknown started circulating oppo research on him today. Did you know that he wrote a column around the time that TARP passed defending limited bank stock purchases by the feds? Heart-ache.