On Friday I asked voters if Herman Cain will become a legitimate front-runner. Since then, he gave a barn-burner of a speech at the Values Voter Summit, came in second in that event’s straw poll and trounced the opposition in the Midwest Leadership Conference straw poll. Readers were divided on Cain’s credibility as a presidential contender.

Eddie Haskell acknowledges Cain’s weaknesses but likes what he sees: “Herman Cain is a true conservative. Not being a lifelong politician, he is still rough around the edges. His shortcomings in his knowledge of foreign policy is counterbalanced with his experience and acumen in the business world. . . . The reality is Cain is short on money and organization. The long primary season will be hard for him but not impossible.”

Geezer4 is more skeptical: “Mr Cain is without doubt a capable businessman. He is also something of a wit in his campaigning. These attributes would both serve a President well. I am not at all certain that he has the ability to lie effectively, a prerequisite for any national office.”

DonMega makes the most forceful case for Cain:

Herman Cain is a legitimate front runner. That is not to say he’ll win the nomination (Romney is very well positioned). The Republican primary has always been about Romney vs. Anti-Romney. With conservatives being queasy about Romney, it is understandable that they have been casting about for the best Anti-Romney.

There have been a number of potential Anti-Romneys, but all have either fallen short ([Tim]Pawlenty, [Rep. Michele]Bachmann, and [Texas Gov. Rick]Perry) or turned away calls to enter the race (Daniels, Ryan and Christie). Cain’s rise is attributable to: (1) an unwillingness of conservatives to accede to Romney’s nomination (just yet); (2) the failure of a viable Anti-Romney ‘savior’ to emerge; (3) an acknowledgment that the primary field is set (there will be no more entries); and (4) strong debate performances by Cain and his straw poll victory in Florida. Considering these factors coupled with Cain’s charisma and private sector accomplishments, conservatives now turn their eyes to Cain and cast their Anti-Romney hopes in him.

I tend to doubt that Cain will be a passing fancy because there are less than 3 months until the first primary voting and there are no ‘fancies’ left to indulge (with the possible exception of Santorum).

I largely agree, although a very likely outcome is that the anti-Romney fanciers remain divided among Perry, Bachmann, Santorum, Gingrich and Cain. It’s not clear to me yet that Cain, who hasn’t been to Iowa in a month and has yet to address serious faults in his 9-9-9 plan, has the staying power to remain nip and tuck with Romney. (His support is also geographically limited and based among social conservatives, much like Mike Huckabee’s appeal was in 2008.) To do that he’ll need to show some mastery of foreign policy, explain why zero government experience is not a handicap and develop a solid ground and fundraising operation. As we’ve seen throughout the race, this is harder than it looks.