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Jack Zaleski, Published March 31 2012

Zaleski: Campaign less interesting without Cain

I wish Herman Cain had stayed in the Republican presidential primary/caucus campaign. I don’t like everything about his politics or policy positions, but I do like the man. Having watched him from the beginning of his reach for the presidency to his campaign’s premature implosion because of allegations of sexual harassment, I found his candor refreshing and his passion inspiring.

The former pizza chain magnate (Godfather’s Pizza) reinforced my impression of him during a Friday visit with The Forum’s Editorial Board. In a wide-ranging conversation fed by several varieties of carry-in Godfather’s pizza, and lightened by Cain’s quick humor, members of the board got Cain’s primer on tax policy, Republican politics and President Barack Obama’s failures.

Cain was in town to punch up the U.S. Senate candidacy of Duane Sand, the Republican who announced last week that he would skip the party’s endorsing convention in Bismarck and go straight to the primary ballot in June.

Cain had nice things to say about Sand’s experience, patriotism and independence. Cain said Sand’s decision to waltz around the party apparatus was not unique this election cycle because Republicans across the nation are unhappy with the GOP’s stodginess and unresponsiveness. He is taking his big bus from state to state in order to help candidates who might not be favorites of establishment politicos, but who represent the political values he believes are foundational.

Cain is no fan of the president. He said the Obama administration has misused legal and regulatory power in ways unprecedented in U.S. history. He said the president and his advisers “just don’t like the free-market system,” and are doing all they can to extend the reach of government into private life and business. But unlike many of the president’s detractors, Cain did not question Obama’s citizenship or patriotism. He just doesn’t like his policies, and from that platform, he cobbles together reasons why he thinks the president should be a one-termer.

Ya gotta like the guy. He’s articulate, informed and forceful; not rude, crude, humorless and preachy – characteristics that are all too common among presidential candidates this go-around. (See Newt Gingrich. See Rick Santorum.) Cain folded his campaign because the harassment allegations (none proved, he said) were not going to stop and were too much for his family to bear. In that regard, he made the right call: family first. But the primary season would have been livelier, more informative and more intelligent had he stayed in.

Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.