Telling 90% of Republican primary voters that they are heartless may be the most effective way in political history to lose the Presidential nomination with just one word.
Yet, wow, wow, and wow once more is my reaction to the rise of Herman Cain to the top of the Republican Presidential field. The latest CBS News poll at www.cbsnews.com confirms other polling in the last 5 days that has Cain surging to a tie with Romney at 17% each and Perry plummeting to 12%.
Cain's rise is a product of Perry losing 50% of his support, and Romney unable to secure more than 25%. While Romney is not growing support, he seems just barely to be holding his supporters so that stability might be a success in a campaign marked by meteoric rises and precipitous falls.
Perry has been at least temporarily undone by his immigration position and specifically his support for in-state tuition rates for undocumented students. Then he made matters worse in a debate by declaring those who disagree with him to be "heartless." It turns out he just told 90% of Republican primary voters that they lacked a heart, since polling finds only 10% support Perry's tuition position.
Republicans are used to hearing such attacks on them from Democrats but found Perry's Texas talk to be doubly insulting, since Perry is on their team and wants to lead it.
Perry had other awful debate moments, reminding viewers that his college professors might have been grade inflating when they gave him a bunch of Ds. Just proves anyone can be elected Governor of Texas and just possibly President.
My gut tells me that Perry is grievously wounded but not yet mortally. Despite his immigration apostasy, Perry still has an incredibly conservative record and the much overstated "Texas Miracle" in which lots of Republicans believe.
What about Cain's ascent? Is it sustainable? Could Santorum or Gingrich be the next to shoot to the top?
Cain has about 4 weeks to consolidate conservative support. If he does not, Perry could regain political health or Santorum or Gingrich could be the next to audition for the anybody but Romney starring role. Rush Limbaugh and conservative grassroots are not going to support Romney, but it remains uncertain whether they will consolidate behind any of the alternatives.
I am going to buy more popcorn.