Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) radical belief that everything from Social Security to Medicare is unconstitutional rocketed him to the front of the GOP presidential race, but he collapsed just as quickly once GOP voters learned that he supports allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public universities. Perry’s loss has been Herman Cain’s gain — Public Policy Polling most recent round of polls shows the former pizza executive springing to the front of the GOP pack.
Yet the GOP electorate’s quest for total ideological purity could be Cain’s downfall as well. Just last June, Cain told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that — although Cain claims to “support the Second Amendment” — he also believes that state governments should have the power to regulate or even ban firearms if they choose:
BLITZER: Should states or local governments be allowed to control the gun situation…
BLITZER: So the answer is yes?
CAIN: Yes. The answer is yes, that should be a state’s decision.
Cain’s belief that Congress can’t touch guns but states can not only places him well to the left of the NRA, it also places him at odds with the Supreme Court. In McDonald v. Chicago, the justices held 5–4 that the Second Amendment applies equally to the states and to the federal government. The four justices who agreed with Cain that states can freely regulate guns were left-of-center Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor.
Cain would only have to watch Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing to learn that his relatively moderate position on guns places him well outside the Republican mainstream. Senate Republicans savaged Justice Sonia Sotomayor during her confirmation hearings because she took the Herman Cain position on gun control while she was a lower court judge — although Sotomayor’s decision was the correct one because it came down before the Supreme Court changed its interpretation of the Second Amendment in McDonald.
Because McDonald was such a closely divided decision, the Supreme Court would drastically roll back Second Amendment rights if a hypothetical Cain Administration appointed just one more pro-gun control justice to the Supreme Court. If that happened, President Cain would do more to strike at gun owners’ rights with just one appointment that President Obama will accomplish in an entire presidential term.