Rick Perry's pizza problem
There are many truisms in politics. Here's mine:
It's never good to lose to the pizza guy.
In a startling embarrassment for the Republican presidential front-runner, Texas Gov. Rick Perry was tripped up by businessman Herman Cain in a straw ballot of Florida Republican activists Saturday that Perry himself had touted as an important measure of the field.
Cain, the former chief executive of Godfather's Pizza, got 37% of the vote, while Perry received 15%.
(Oh, and does anyone still remember that little spitfire Michele Bachmann? She didn't actually compete in the Florida straw poll, and she got 1%. Which, to be fair, is several more votes than the Domino's delivery guy got.)
Cain, of course, couldn't wait to trumpet the victory as a signal that his message is getting through.
And what is his message? As The Times reported Monday:
In his television appearances, Cain credited his message, particularly his idea to throw out the existing tax code. "I feel great," he said of his victory. "The message is more powerful than money."
Cain's economic policy is based on what he calls his 9-9-9 plan: 9% tax on corporate income; 9% personal tax rate; and a 9% federal sales tax. The plan causes a split among economists and politicians. It would eliminate deductions, and it would also hit the poor and middle class hardest since the sales tax would represent a larger chunk of their income than a rich person's.
Uh, yea. Listen, not to rain on Cain's parade, but only in the "through the looking glass" world of today's Republican Party does a candidate believe that this message -- "Vote for me: I'll tax the poor and middle class the most!" -- is resonating with voters.
And Cain's still not getting much love from the pundits. The Times' Doyle McManus, for example, wrote an entire column Sunday on the Republican race and didn't mention him once.
No, most political observers saw in Cain's victory a backlash against Perry and his subpar performance at the GOP debate in Orlando, Fla., last week.
In case you missed it, one low point for Perry came in this exchange:
Governor Perry, if you were president and you got a call at 3 a.m. telling you that Pakistan had lost control of its nuclear weapons at the hands of the Taliban, what would be your first move?
GOV. PERRY: Well, obviously, before you ever get to that point, you have to build a relationship in that region. And that's one of the things that this administration has not done. Just yesterday we found out through Admiral Mullen that Haqqani has been involved with -- and that's the terrorist group directly associated with the Pakistani country -- so to have a relationship with India, to make sure that India knows that they are an ally of the United States. For instance, when we had the opportunity to sell India the upgraded F-16s, we chose not to do that. We did the same thing with Taiwan. The point is our allies need to understand clearly that we are their friends; we will be standing by there with them. Today we don't have those allies in that region that can assist us if that situation that you talked about were to become a reality.
Reportedly, the CIA and the NSA are seeking to obtain the secret decoder ring that will tell them what Perry meant.
Doesn't matter, you say? This election is about jobs and the economy, not foreign policy?
Well, remember, events have a way of shaping presidencies. George W. Bush inherited a budget surplus, a world at peace and a pretty good economy. Within months, 19 guys flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and suddenly, a knowledge of foreign affairs became pretty darn important.
For now, though, the GOP race is like a bad reality show. In this week's episode, the pizza guy from nowhere gets to say, with a somewhat straight face, "Vote for me and I’m going to deliver."
Which, at the moment, is much better than, "Pakistan? Where the heck is that?"
Photo: Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain speaks to delegates before a straw poll in Orlando, Fla. Credit: John Raoux / Associated Press