Eyeing 2012, could grass-roots activists complement, or complicate, GOP 'establishment' hopes?
March 12th, 2011
09:55 AM ET
11 years ago

Eyeing 2012, could grass-roots activists complement, or complicate, GOP 'establishment' hopes?

Nashua, New Hampshire (CNN) - Can they all get along?

Something happened at a Friday event in New Hampshire that symbolizes one potential problem as the presidential race slowly heats up: Will conservative, grass-roots activists complement - or complicate - the Republican Party's hopes of winning in 2012?

Case in point: At the gathering of state GOP party faithful in Nashua, two men disagreed, in separate interviews with CNN, over the best background for the next Republican presidential nominee.

Should it be someone with real-world experience and an impressive, non-political resume but no time in public office? Or someone with a deep political background who's been a state chief executive but who's also tarred as the "establishment"?

On one side were the ideas of Herman Cain, a potential presidential candidate who is also a darling of the Tea Party movement and has ample business credentials but has never won office.

On the other, the ideas of John Sununu, a former three-term governor of New Hampshire and chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush who is some two months out of the chairmanship of New Hampshire's GOP.

Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, delivered a speech to the Hillsborough County Republican Committee.

In addition to his oft-repeated jabs at the Obama administration, Cain trained his rhetorical fire on another target: those with deep political experience.

Flat-out acknowledging his long-shot chances, Cain said, "There are some people who do not believe that a businessman that has never held public office can get the Republican nomination and become president of the United States."

He continued: "Whenever people say, 'But you don't have any political experience. You've never held public office,' I remind them: Most of the people in Washington, D.C., have. How's that working for you?"

Meanwhile, Sununu sees political experience as an asset.

In an interview with CNN, the former governor was asked who he'd be inclined to support. Several presidential candidates will undoubtedly seek his support in his first-in-the-nation primary state.

"I really have a partiality toward the experience you get in the statehouse office. So I lean towards governors and former governors," Sununu said. "I think, historically, they've made much better presidents than others."

Sununu even lumped senators into his not-as-favorable lot, repeating that state chief executives tend to fare better as presidents.

"It's what I call the Ronald Reagan rule of thumb. He was a great governor. And he made a great president," Sununu said.

Asked why he was attending an event where the main speaker - Cain - never held political office, Sununu said, "Well, I'm willing to listen."

In a post-speech interview with CNN, Cain was asked about Sununu's words.

"My response is, quite simply: that does not surprise me, OK," Cain said. "With all due respect to governor Sununu, I could see that he would lean toward a governor or someone that's part of the political establishment."

Cain continued: "Most people that have been a big part of the political establishment, or are still a part of the political establishment, I'm not expecting their support until after I get the nomination."

"Here is the big difference: The political establishment, with all due respect, they're not going to elect me. The people are. The people are the ones that are going to give me the momentum that I need. And then, once I get the nomination, then the Republican establishment, they will want someone to win."

Follow Shannon Travis on Twitter: @ShanTravisCNN

Filed under: 2012 • GOP • Herman Cain • John Sununu
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Midwestmatt

    These so called "grass roots movements" on the far right are nothing more than Koch brothers emboldened weeds. The Republican Party has a huge problem on their hands as their unacknowledged step child (the Tea Baggers) has grown up into one angry teenager who will be a major headache for years to come. Good luck with that RNC, you've got problems.

    March 12, 2011 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  2. Get A Grip

    I have a lot of respect for Herman Cain and would certainly vote for this man if he ran in 2012. I have no doubt Mr. Cain is just what this country needs, unlike the empty suit we now have that calls himself President........oh my, how could that be? According to the race baiters out there the only reason we 'white folks' don't like Obama is because he's black. How on earth could we even think of voting for a black man according to the 'race baiters'? Just goes to show you what the liberal race baiters don't know........ Good luck Mr. Cain....you have my support!

    March 12, 2011 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  3. jules sand-perkins

    If Republicans had a better concept of what they want the next president to accomplish, they would know what kind of person to seek as a candidate.
    They should remember that business experience does not always translate across cultures.
    A great rock star–Elvis, for example–would not necessarily do well in the job of a (classical) concert pianist.

    March 12, 2011 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  4. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    To my utter joy, the TEA party has already shown itself to be self righteous, self absorbed and self promoting, all at the Republican Party's expense.

    Run Sarah RUN

    March 12, 2011 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  5. Indy

    "The Price of Pizza is Too Damm High" so Cain can't win besides he is a quack job on the Palin level. I will never understand why Republicans think that Businessmen make good candidates, running Government is quite different then running a for profit business. To answer the question if they can get along, they do all want to destroy Government and wipe out the middle class so they do have the exact same focus there and should get along just fine. With the main goal of making America run by corporations I don't think it matters who the candidate is, they will all do what the Koch Bros and Fox News tell them to do, so it hardly matters what the name of the candidate may be.

    March 12, 2011 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  6. once upon a horse

    I just wonder if the definition of "grass roots" has changed since I first came to hear it. The so-called Tea Party was supposed to be a grass roots movement and it was funded by billionaires like the Koch Brothers and FoxNews so they didn't have to worry about looking for funding. I thought grass roots meant everyday people using their possibly limited resources to fund and power a movement. So far all the GOP candidates I have seen have little problem with not being part of the upper 2% that are getting the Bush tax breaks. And as far as Mr Cain goes he came one election too late, TP favorite or not I just can't see the GOP having him run against President Obama and I don't think I really need to go into the reasons why.

    March 12, 2011 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  7. Michigan Don

    All this talk about anti-establishment politics belongs on the Cartoon Network. Even before "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" was released the fat cqts and monied interest (if they are not one in the same) have controlled the agenda in washington and all the State capitals to boot. You may be elected by the people but to keep your seat you either march in lock-step or leave and your vote isn't worth diddly up against all of theirs nor the contributions from Mr. & Mrs. American against thier corporate resources (bot demostic and multi-national ones), so get real "Baggers" shout and carry on all you want but in te end nothing will change.

    March 12, 2011 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  8. Son of CSM.Wiggins

    Get a grip caine will never win the office of president. We the black Americans will never vote for people like him. He is against everytging we believe in. The only thing we agree with him on is probably religion. The problem for him is we are against our religion being used for political power.

    March 12, 2011 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  9. lndepend

    Get rid of Gop and teapot activist! Gop was responsible for the deregulation on banks,corporate giants, and let wall street gamble with Americans pensions,savings,morgages,or any kind of retirement! They are still doing the same thing? The crooks that are responsible for the "Sinking of America" are still out there! None prosecuted for their crimes!!!! There going to do it AGAIN!!!!! Wake up America,vote repubs out!

    March 12, 2011 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  10. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Republicans have no one to blame but themselves now that they have a bunch of looneys wanting to be president. They stood by and watched Palin and the Tea Party drive them into the ground and then cover them with dirt. Republicans aren't about making policy anymore, they have become a train wreck.

    March 12, 2011 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  11. Rick McDaniel

    The GOP field of candidates in 2012, is going to be so large, that there will have to be a run-off between them, to get it narrowed down to a single candidate to go forward.

    March 12, 2011 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  12. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    The last president we had who had his experience in the Business community and not Politics was Herbert Hoover. Shall we go for a repeat?
    On the other hand, I lived in New Hampshire when John Sununu (senior) was the Governor. He would come in at the beginning of the legislative session, tell them what they were going to do and pass, and then send them home after they completed his work. Of course, when he tried this with Congress as GHWB's Chief of Staff, he found things to be a bit different in the big leagues.
    Looking at the batch of Republicans who claim to be the best qualified, I have to believe is Romney with his mix of business and political experience. Of course, the only way I would vote for him was if he was the ONLY person on the ballot and someone was holding a gun to my head.

    March 12, 2011 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  13. a in austin

    Here's hoping WE THE PEOPLE have awakened and will work together to get rid of the corporate sponsored candidates. Enough sacrifice has been made by Main Street. The shared sacrifice needs to begin. No longer should those corporations making billions in profit not pay their fair share to help in recovery. What a joke the tea party has turned in to.

    March 12, 2011 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  14. Howard

    Obama is the President of 'Too Little, Too Late" . This is because he is not a leader, but merely a follower. Obama waits to see which way the wind is blowing before taking a stand on anything ... and, then it's usually too little, and too late to solve the problem. Save America, dump Obama in 2012 !!!

    March 12, 2011 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  15. B

    Can you believe the Republican lineup being put forth?

    What a bunch of has-beens and wannabes –

    March 12, 2011 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  16. ThinkAgain

    It could happen ... "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" Plus, greed makes for strange bedfellows.

    I just hope people can put their fear aside and not succumb to voting Republican and against their own self-interest.

    March 12, 2011 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  17. ThinkAgain

    MIdwestMatt: These so called "grass roots movements" on the far right are nothing more than Koch brothers emboldened weeds.

    Very well put, thank you!

    March 12, 2011 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  18. ThinkAgain

    Get A Grip: Republicans only like conservative, don't-rock-the-boat (or, in the case of Clarence Thomas, don't-make-a-sound) Black men. If a Black person stands up for themselves, holds progressive values and – God forbid – is intelligent, then the Republicans can't stand them!

    March 12, 2011 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  19. T

    I'm from Atlanta and an independent. I used to listen to this clown on the way home from work on News Talk radio. He is Neal Boortz's sidekick. He can drink the Tea Party Koolaid all he wants, but he did nothing but defend the Bush administration over and over when the economy was collapsing. One of his favorite things was to argue with listeners that the economy was "technically" not in a recession in 08 before everything went to hell in a handbasket. Go back and listen to some of his radio cast and I GUARANTEE you won't vote for this clown. It's funny I don't see Godfathers Pizza around anymore, yet Caain is such a business success????

    March 12, 2011 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  20. ThinkAgain

    jules sand-perkins: "If Republicans had a better concept of what they want the next president to accomplish, they would know what kind of person to seek as a candidate."

    The Republicans DO know what they want: A person who can beat President Obama. After that, they want a puppet they can control like they did GW Bush, a figurehead that "connects" with the people to such a degree that as they simultaneously fill with pride over their own self-worth, consistently vote against their own self-interest.

    To the Republicans, it's all about money and power – and eliminating their enemies, be they "the left" as Gingrich has stated as a goal, or all those "over-paid" teachers and other public servants without whom our country would be just another third-world hell-hole.

    March 12, 2011 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  21. Ernie

    I read the atricle and it said that no "Business Man" could be "President". The last I read was that George H W Bush was an "oil man" his son Geroge W Bush was an "oil mand and a basebal owner" then turned to politicis and they both ran for President and won. Everyone is stuck in the "Poiiticisl Mode" meaning is if you don't have any "Politicial experience you can't run for office or be President". Most of the politician are lawyer who couldn't make a good living practicing law so they became politicians. My saying is "A bad lawyer makes a bad politician". There has haen quite a few House Members and Senators who were not lawyers or politicians and won. At the time Obama ran for President people would listen to anyone who would tell them that the grass is going to be greener on the other side as long as your with me and elect me President. Well that worked, now after two years everyone is worse off that we were two years ago. People still don't have jobs or can't find one. We have been told the "Recession" ended in 2009 that was two years ago. I still don't see any "Grass Roots" movemnt or Tea Party movement doing anything. That's because we are in between elections and this gives all the "Politicians" all the time to do all their damage. The Presidental election is 19 months away, all these "Grass Roots" people should be rasing money because it going to take a lot of money and the "Liberal Press" to win a "President" election.
    Remember one thing a candidate can have all the qualifications and good looks but if the "Liberal Press" doesn't like the candidate he or she won't be "elected" This is something for everyone to think about now till November 2012.

    March 12, 2011 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  22. ThinkAgain

    Howard:Obama is the President of 'Too Little, Too Late" . This is because he is not a leader, but merely a follower.

    No, President Obama takes seriously the concept of a representative government. Unfortunately, the Republicans are such bottom-feeding scum that they are using this against the President – and against the American people – to further their own, greedy, short-term-goal agenda of consolidating power and wealth.

    The Republicans dirty little secret is that when they get us all where they want us – low paid, undereducated, those in need left to fend for themselves – they are going to outsource everything, completely turning our country over to the highest bidder.

    I also think that their plan is to foreclose on as many houses as possible, scoop them up at fire-sale prices, then rent them back to us – in perpetuity.

    Remember the Tennessee Ernie Ford song, "Sixteen Tons"? Well, that's where we're headed:

    You load sixteen tons, what do you get
    Another day older and deeper in debt
    Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
    I owe my soul to the company store

    March 12, 2011 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  23. Son of CSM.Wiggins

    Howard Obama has created more jobs on two years as gwb did in 8. The teatards couldnt give me a billion dollars to vote one of them. I'd rather be a millionaire with a strong middle class America then a billionaire with depleted middle class. The only other people that could replace Obama is Rick Mcdaniel and I. Why because we disagree on a lot but we can common ground on the issues

    March 12, 2011 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  24. Debbie

    These "grass roots" groups are nothing short of radicals. Radicals on the right or on the left are dangerous.

    March 12, 2011 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  25. ThinkAgain

    Claudia, Houston, Tx: Republicans have no one to blame but themselves now that they have a bunch of looneys wanting to be president.

    The logical conclusion is that you have to be a loony to be a Republican these days. All of their policies are PROVEN FAILURES:

    Economic: Trickle-down doesn't work; deficits explode under Republican administrations (historical fact; look it up).

    Military: Iraq and Afghanistan, anyone? FDR was at the helm when the free world defeated Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito (and don't give me that Reagan bringing down Communism crap; that was an economic war of attrition where the Soviet Union went broke with their military spending before we could).

    Foreign: Bush took all the international goodwill following the tragedy of 9/11 and squandered it; in fact, with his two wars, he created the best recruiting tool al Qaeda could have ever asked for!

    Intelligence: Bush ignored the August 6, 2001 President Daily Briefing that warned of Osama bin Laden's intent to attack the US using airplanes.

    March 12, 2011 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
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