But Cain remains the longest of long shots for the 2012 Republican nomination. He has never been elected to public office, and admits he knows little about foreign policy. "I don't pretend to know everything," he told the BeanTowne crowd, promising that a President Cain would surround himself with "the right people."
It would be easy to dismiss Cain outright, but in this oddball campaign cycle, anything is possible, it seems. The Republican field is forming slowly and in fits and starts, at times masquerading as a three-ring circus. Billionaire Donald Trump became a P.T. Barnum; smoked out President Obama's long-form birth certificate; then said, nah, I like making money better. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's campaign has imploded with the resignation of his top aides. Several potentially strong contenders have taken a pass – though one, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, is now saying, well, maybe. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani may also jump in. He'll let us know by the end of the summer.
Then there's Ms. Palin. Her bus tour up the East Coast reminds us that nobody is better at grabbing the spotlight than the 2008 vice presidential nominee, and it's anybody's guess whether she will run. If she does, she could go all the way to the nomination. If not, Mr. Romney can stake a firmer claim as front-runner.