The Washington Post

Herman Cain must get serious at Reagan Library debate

Asked in last month’s Iowa debate about his proposal for a 20-foot barbed wire fence along the border, Herman Cain responded with exasperation -- “ America has got to learn to take a joke!”

The former Godfathers’ Pizza CEO is undoubtedly the funniest Republican candidate. Now he has to prove he can be more than a comedian.

Cain’s easy way with words has been attracting big crowds in Iowa. So far, that interest hasn’t translated into broader support. He finished fifth in the Ames Straw Poll -- behind Rick Santorum. He’s languishing in polls.

Given its scarcity of money and staff, any chance for the longshot candidate to speak on a nationally-televised stage is a victory for the Cain camp. Cain argues that his off-the-cuff style is part of his refreshing, anti-Washington appeal. But if the outsider wants to have any impact on the race, he will have to start showing a more serious side.

If Cain can make headlines from tonight’s debate for something other than a wisecrack, he will have succeeded. If he can’t, it will serve as another sign that his campaign itself may have a long ways to go before it is taken seriously .

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.

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Show Comments
The Democrats debate Thursday. Get caught up on the race.
What to expect tonight
Tonight's debate is likely to focus on the concerns of African American and Latino voters. Clinton has focused in recent days on issues like gun control, criminal-sentencing reform, and the state of drinking water in Flint, Mich. Sanders has been aggressively moving to appeal to the same voters, combining his core message about economic unfairness with his own calls to reform the criminal-justice system.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
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South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the polls as he faces rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz heading into the S.C. GOP primary on Feb. 20.
Fact Checker
Trump’s claim that his border wall would cost $8 billion
The billionaire's claim is highly dubious. Based on the costs of the Israeli security barrier (which is mostly fence) and the cost of the relatively simple fence already along the U.S.-Mexico border, an $8 billion price tag is simply not credible.
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Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands

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