Tonight’s CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian in Las Vegas will be moderated by CNN’s liberal commentator Anderson Cooper. New Republican star Herman Cain’s politics and policies are anathema to establishment liberals like Cooper -- and since Cain’s unexpected win in the Florida straw poll, CNN has been especially tough on Cain’s 9-9-9 economic plan and his lack of experience in elected office.
The bad news for liberals like Anderson Cooper is, the things that bother them most about Herman Cain (and his 9-9-9 plan) are exactly the the factors that have propelled Cain to the top tier of Republican presidential candidates.
After Florida, the media and the other campaigns were slow to give Herman Cain the same welcome to the piñata party that they gave Rick Perry when he entered the race and shot to the top of the polls -- and that has changed since Cain appeared to develop some staying power.
Look for the details of Cain’s 999 plan, such as its new national sales tax, to get a thorough airing and attacks from the second-tier candidates – Rick Santorum seems to relish heaping sarcasm on the front-runners and he issued a particular tough indictment of the 999 plan this week. Michele Bachmann also went after Cain on border security, an area where she has both knowledge and a conservative record.
There is a lot more to Herman Cain than the establishment media is willing to admit, and voters like what the establishment sees as his greatest weakness – his lack of experience in elected office. On the economic front, this seems less important than on the national security front. Cain’s business experience is the real deal, but he has run aground several times on national security related questions or comments – most recently when he back-tracked and termed his support of an electric fence on the southern border “a joke.”
Tonight’s debate will take place against the backdrop of the alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. At some point, voters will begin to tote-up Herman Cain’s seemingly small flubs on national security and see a pattern they don’t like, but right now Cain is riding high on a wave of anti-politician sentiment that will be hard to deflate in one debate.