Herman Cain: The pizza man delivers

Like Reagan, Cain combines genial temperament, folksy style, and a relaxed and effortless comfort before the camera to reassure those who worry about his lack of government experience. His dismissive response to the emphasis on a substantive political track record (“How’s that workin’ out for you?”) drew one of the evening’s most positive responses. When Reagan ran for governor of California in 1966 he billed himself as “the citizen candidate”; Cain can also promote himself as part of the solution, while professional politicos are part of the problem…

Despite the flurry of attention to Cain’s candidacy, he stands scant chance of winning a major primary or caucus. His modest personal fortune provides a comfortable life for himself and his family but, unlike other business leaders pursuing the presidency (Mitt Romney, Donald Trump, Jon Huntsman) he can’t pump tens of millions of dollars into funding his own campaign. The expected addition of better-known contenders in the next few weeks (almost certainly including Newt Gingrich and perhaps Mitch Daniels and Michele Bachmann) means that he’ll never again be able to steal the show in future debates the way he did in this initial outing (against Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and the enigmatic Gary Johnson).

Still, Herman Cain could well play a significant role in building a stronger GOP for 2012 and beyond.