Fringe Candidates Can Generate Publicity, but Not Get Elected

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Herman Cain’s presidential run cab be personified by the 1963 hit song “Only in America” by Jay and Americans, especially the verse “… can a kid without a cent get a break and maybe grow up to be president.”

Herman Cain “Smoking”

The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and current talk show host and circuit speaker has every right to run for president, despite current allegations of sexual harassment when he headed up the National Restaurant Association.

Before all the recent hoopla around Cain’s alleged sexual improprieties, the Republican presidential candidate was gaining momentum using his own success story as an alternative to other GOP bids for the White House.

His online “smile” and “smoking” ads however created a lot of media attention. It was really the last few seconds of a sinister-like smile that helped the video go viral and began to position Cain as some kind of fringe candidate. Scores of other mock videos were soon posted on the Web poking fun of Cain’s candidacy.

It’s highly doubtful that Cain will receive the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. But America is the land of opportunity. Anything can happen. Heck, in 2008 the U.S. voted Barack Obama as the first African-American president.

Other than race, there are few similarities between Obama and Cain let alone political parties. But America loves the underdog and at times is willing to bypass indiscretions among candidates and elected officials. Whether Cain can weather this political firestorm remains uncertain.

The real issue here is if a fringe candidate can get elected. Does Ralph Nader ring a bell? This well-known consumer advocate has unsuccessfully run for president five times. His celebrity however has helped his career as an author, lecturer and political activist. Not bad, eh? The same goes for Donald Trump who recently dropped his 2012 presidential bid. Even though he was never going to get his party’s nod, Trump used the opportunity to generate media coverage for his own brand and promote his next book, “How to run for President.” Just kidding about the book.

Is media to blame for giving these candidates too much attention? That can be debated either way. Controversy and human interest are key news drivers. Herman Cain’s story has both elements. It’s this scenario that will enable Cain to sell more stuff, but prevent him from winning the presidency.

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