In the end, not even Donald Trump and his sky-high popularity with the conservative wing of the Republican Party could give Herman Cain a new political life.
The president announced in a midday tweet that the former 2012 GOP presidential candidate would not get a nomination for a seat on the Federal Reserve.
My friend Herman Cain, a truly wonderful man, has asked me not to nominate him for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board. I will respect his wishes. Herman is a great American who truly loves our Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 22, 2019
“I’ve recommended Herman Cain. A terrific man, a terrific person. He’s a friend of mine,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on April 4. “I’ve recommended him highly for the Fed.
Then came a presidential prediction that never quite reflected reality: “I’ve told my folks that that’s the man and he’s doing some pre-checking now and I would imagine he’d be in great shape.” But Cain never actually had much of a chance.
Here are three reasons Trump had no choice but to dump Cain, who once was Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City chairman.
The White House never had the votes in the Senate. And there simply was little chance of convincing enough GOP members to roll the dice on Cain, who was forced out of the 2012 Republican presidential primary amid sexual misconduct charges.
“There is a lack of enthusiasm among a number of our members about that particular nominee,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on April 11. That dose of McConnell-speak was a message to the White House that the idea was likely doomed.
“I have not spoken to him about it,” the Kentucky Republican said of the president. “I do think — stating the obvious — that there are two things the administration ought to consider before nominating someone. First, obviously, background check. And second, likelihood of confirmation. And generally, it’s better to check that out in advance, before you send a nomination up.”
But the Trump team did neither, causing the president to — yet again — reverse himself as his ever-changing presidency rolls on.
When GOP Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota on the same day joined fellow Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in publicly opposing the Cain pick, it put his chances at confirmation in jeopardy.
Cain and Stephen Moore, a conservative commentator who also is being vetted by the White House, are not qualified, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries said earlier this month.
“It’s not clear to me whether that’s reality or a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit,” the New York Democrat said, predicting the nominees will be withdrawn.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi dubbed Cain “ill-suited” and “dangerous.”
But those questions were not just coming from Democrats.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby — a longtime Alabama lawmaker who meets somewhat frequently with the president — also had voiced concerns about the former pizza executive being nominated — a signal additional GOP defections were likely.
“That’s an important appointment, that’s a serious appointment to the Federal Board of Governors. Stephen Moore, let’s talk about him first. He is involved in the economics. And I know him,” Shelby said before the chamber left for a two-week recess. “I don’t know Mr. Cain. … It will be interesting to see what happens. I don’t know what will happen. … We have to vet it and we have to evaluate it.”
The president has voiced his anger with the Fed’s decisions on key interest rates, claiming a late-2018 hike has slowed economic growth that will be key to his 2020 reelection fight.
Some of Trump’s sharpest words for the Fed and its chairman, Trump-appointed Jerome Powell, came during a late November interview with the Washington Post.
“I’m doing deals and I’m not being accommodated by the Fed,” Trump told the newspaper. “They’re making a mistake because I have a gut and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me. So far, I’m not even a little bit happy with my selection of Jay. Not even a little bit. And I’m not blaming anybody, but I’m just telling you I think that the Fed is way off-base with what they’re doing.”
That prompted concerns the president selected Cain and Moore to give him two voices on the Fed board who would advocate for his desired low interest rates, and work to prevent Powell and others from again raising rates.
“There are so many bridges too far here, but this is a really dangerous one,” Pelosi said. “The Fed should be determining the rates, not … politicians.
“When you have two people totally ill-suited, unqualified for the position because they may just go in and say, ‘The president wants an increase in rates, so we’re here to do that,’” Pelosi continued. “That is a dangerous thing for an economy, when a central bank of the country has political influence.”
Jennifer Shutt, Lindsey McPherson and Paul Krawzak contributed to this report.