A Report: Herman Cain and Rick Santorum In Myrtle Beach

A Report: Herman Cain and Rick Santorum In Myrtle Beach

On Saturday morning at 8 AM, Herman Cain rolled into Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

It was a little hard to get an exact crowd count since there were people eating breakfast in the restaurant, too, but I’d estimate there were about 100 people there. Not too shabby for Myrtle Beach at that time of day.

Cain did a fantastic job of working the crowd and there were several people who seemed particularly excited to meet him. Everyone may not know his name yet, but the people who do know him, seem to like him.

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After spending about 30 minutes working the crowd, Cain gave a surprisingly long speech. The event was scheduled to run from 8:00-9:00, but he started at 8:45 and spent about 45 minutes talking to the crowd (and taking three questions at the end.)

The speech wasn’t full of soundbites or attacks on the other candidates; it was all substance and solutions. Cain also must have been pleased that his message was getting through because at one point, he asked, “What’s my plan?” and the room erupted with cries of “9-9-9.”

Cain didn’t poor mouth any of the candidates. In fact, he made a point of noting that was something he didn’t want to do. He did, however, note that he was a little frustrated with how the debates were playing out. He told me that the day after the debate, the hot story would be over what words we used to describe Social Security instead of what the solution to our Social Security problem is.

At the very end of Cain’s very well received speech, when he took some questions, one weakness of his came to the forefront: Cain doesn’t like to be challenged. If you ask him a question he doesn’t like, there’s often a hint of irritation in his voice when he answers. In this case, he had someone ask him if the 9% sales tax in his plan would be a negative for senior citizens who’ve saved up a lot of money (Real answer: Yes). That was followed up with a question from someone who was pro-tariffs and wanted to know if he would support tariffs against foreign goods (Real answer: No). On both questions, you could read between the lines to get his answer, but for me, the slight annoyance from him stood out.

All in all, it was still a very good meet and greet for him and the crowd seemed to really like him.

Later that night at 6 PM, Rick Santorum was scheduled to do an Evening Prayer Meeting / Constitution Day Celebration. Although I missed the event, I had been told that Michele Bachmann had done a similar event in Myrtle Beach that wasn’t heavily attended. Since she had drawn really well at some other events, I thought that didn’t bode well for Santorum.

It turns out, it wasn’t heavily attended. Only about 50 people showed up. Because of a flight that ran late earlier in the day, Santorum was REALLY late, too. He didn’t start talking until 7:00 PM, which is when the event was set to end.

Before he got started, he talked to a few members of the local press.

When I listened to Santorum, he didn’t sound all that great. He was talking about Gardasil, ripping on Perry, and talking about how important the opt-in was for it and it was just like, ugh, how tedious.

Then an amazing thing happened.

Rick Santorum, the candidate who famously has no charisma, got up in front of everyone and started to talk. He talked about the Constitution, history, and religious issues. He did it in a sober, somber way and I realized that I was paying rapt attention to everything he had to say. Yes, Rick Santorum, THE Rick Santorum sounded like a deeply serious, absolutely earnest, compellingly decent citizen scholar who we were fortunate to be allowed to hear speak.

That was when I had a bit of insight into Rick Santorum…because he DID NOT sound fantastic the whole night. Unlike Cain, near the end of the night, Santorum actually took a lot of shots at his fellow candidates. Occasionally, they hit home. For example, Santorum noted that Cain and Romney liked to brag about the fact that they’re not career politicians. He noted that Cain lost a primary in Georgia and Mitt lost a Senate election in Massachusetts. In other words, the reason they’re not career politicians isn’t because they don’t want to be career politicians; it’s because they lost elections.

Point for Santorum.

That being said, Santorum’s way of speaking is so high minded and rooted in principle that when he attacks the other candidates, there’s a tremendous contrast and he often comes across as petty and small. In fact, if I were his campaign manager, the piece of advice I’d give him right now would be to run a totally positive campaign. Don’t say a single negative word about any of the other candidates and let people come to admire Rick Santorum for what he stands for, not for what he doesn’t like about the other guys.

I’d note that even when Santorum talked policy, he sounded really good. For example, Santorum compared health care to food and talked about what would happen if the government interfered in the market for food the same way it does for health care. It was a brilliant analogy.

After he finished talking, Santorum shook hands and took pictures.

Even though it wasn’t a huge event, Santorum did seem to impress the people who were there and there’s a lot to be said for that.

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