In a recent column, Michael Barone assesses support for Herman Cain as a symptom of a trend towards distrust of "experts." He even - perhaps rightly - suggests that Romney's resume is thin compared to previous nominees.
I am getting a little tired of this meme in political commentary. It seems to me that this is less a distrust of expertise, than it is seeking after the right sort of expertise. Cain has been a CEO of a large corporation, and served in appointed office on the Federal Reserve. Recent trend? Republicans previously nominated a man known for his business record who had only previously served in appointed office - in 1928. (I note this advisedly, since that nominee was Herbert Hoover.)
Voters may be right or wrong to weigh foreign affairs more lightly than economic concerns right now, but it seems to me that this is the explanation for Cain's popularity. He has plenty of expertise, but in the real world - a place to which the current president has few apparent ties.
It is not unreasonable to view the flailing, failing disaster of the Obama Administration and conclude that the area of expertise we should seek for the presidency is not to be found at Harvard Law. Herman Cain may or may not be the right man for the presidency, but if he is not, it isn't because he lacks proper experience or knowledge. He has plenty of both for voters concerned about the government's increasing strangulation of the economy.
If there was ever a year when voters chose a naive, inexperienced man with no clear expertise in anything, it was 2008. The presidency is now the job Obama has held longer than any other in his life. He has education, but almost no real-world experience in or out of government. He did go to all the right schools, I guess.
Cain's popularity - and, for that matter, Romney's steadiness in the polls - suggests not that voters are abandoning experts, but that they seek candidates with expertise outside of government. You know, in the real world.