My colleague Vanessa Williams explored Herman Cain’s claims that he could win 40 percent of the black vote, matching Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, which marked a high water mark for black support of successful Republican presidential candidates.

She wrote:

Besides being remarkable for its optimistic electoral calculation, Cain’s claim is unusual because he has made no special effort to appeal directly to black voters. If anything, the candidate has offended and outraged some of them with some of his comments and behavior.

Tara Wall, an African American Republican who Williams talked to for her story, will be online here at 1:30 p.m. ET to talk about Herman Cain and black voters.

Here’s what’s interesting: Cain’s candidacy has catapulted him into the ranks of the most visible black Republicans, swelling his fundraising coffers, and, for good and for bad, elevating his name recognition. But, beyond that, the question is this: What has Herman Cain done for the cause of black conservatism (written off for dead here?)

Fellow black conservatives slammed him for playing the race card when he was hit with sexual harassment allegations. And his days as Mr. Congeniality in the Republican field, and everybody’s favorite hypothetical vice president, are long gone.

At some point, the Republican party seemed to acknowledge that giving up entirely on the black vote was not a smart strategy, installing Michael Steele to head the Republican National Committee to counter President Obama.

That didn’t work out so well.

What impact, if any, could Cain have in 2012 in drumming up support for the Republican ticket?


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