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No place at the Tea Party: Herman Cain's alleged sexual misdemeanors have surely scuppered his GOP nomination chances (Gage Skidmore)

The implosion of Herman Cain was always going to happen. The default candidate, Mitt Romney, has failed to inspire Republicans and the Tea Party loathe him. So Cain was the third in a series of Anyone But Mitt (ABM) candidates, each of whom had the political longevity of the fruit fly. Newton ("Newt") Gingrich might well be the fourth. 

Like the Emperor Napoleon III, whose name was both his making and his undoing, Herman Cain was both made and undone by the fact that he was never a politician. People loved his "personal narrative", the simple life story of a man who refused to run for election until he had had a very successful career in the competitive business of selling pizzas. "Everyone in Washington has held public office before," goes one Herman Cain bumper sticker, adding in an allusion to Sarah Palin's anti-Obama jibe: "How's that workin' out for ya?" Yet Cain's innocence of office also meant that when one woman after another made claims of sexual harassment against him, he had no plan for how to deal with the allegations. A politician would have been primed and ready for counterattack, or at least would have got his story straight and then stuck to it. 

Yet even if it turns out that he has not been a serial groper, Herman Cain was never going to win the Republican nomination. He was always only ever a bumper-sticker candidate, although some of these slogans were "kinda neat", as Americans say. "You voted for Obama to prove you're not racist, now vote for Cain to prove you're not stupid", reads one, "Cain vs Unable" another, "Yes We Cain", and, in a reference to his time as CEO of Godfather's Pizzas: "He Will Deliver". One of the reasons that the Tea Party, which is constantly accused of racism, though without any evidence, loved Herman Cain can be summed up in yet another bumper-sticker, which read: "My Guy is Blacker than Your Guy: Who's the Racist Now?"

For all this, Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan (a flat tax of 9 per cent on incomes, sales and corporations) was never going to be popular with most Americans. The great majority of states have a sales tax of less than 9 per cent and some have none at all. When combined with state and local levies, Cain's federal sales tax would mean rates as high as 17 per cent or more — not far off VAT levels in overtaxed Europe, and unacceptably high in fiscally conservative America. Although the Heritage Foundation estimated that Cain's package would not increase the federal deficit, it would be deeply unpopular with voters. "Creating a new national sales tax on top of the income tax", opined the Wall Street Journal when it was unveiled, "is a political killer." Add to that not only Cain's ignorance of foreign policy — he had no idea what US policy on Libya had been, he had never even heard of the Palestinians' so-called "right of return" nor of China's nuclear arsenal-but also his dismissal of the very notion that a presidential candidate should have expertise in that area, and the Cain campaign was lucky to get as far as it did.

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