Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain has managed to become a top tier candidate despite a few noticeable flaws — ignorance about public policy, unfamiliarity with the basics of American politics, a complete absence of experience in public office at any level, etc.

But Michelle Cottle reported over the weekend on a facet to Cain that’s gone largely overlooked: the Republican’s “peculiar obsession with supernatural signs and signals.” Keep in mind, this isn’t a joke. (via Paul Waldman)

Raise your hand if you have a favorite number.

Keep it raised if you believe this number to be your “lucky” number.

Now keep it up only if you think this number has a literal, meaningful, ongoing impact on your life.

Finally, if your hand is still up, ask yourself this: If you were running for president and wrote a campaign book, would you devote an entire chapter to this number, explaining how its frequent appearance in your life signals that you are meant to win and explaining that, though you are “not a devout numerologist,” this number clearly keeps popping up “more than coincidentally”?

If that hand is still raised, it probably means that you are Herman Cain.

And what, pray tell, is this magical number? If you guessed 42, you’re (a) a Douglas Adams fan; and (b) close. Apparently, Cain is obsessed with the number 45 for its “special” qualities that relate only to him. Not only was he born in 1945, but “45 keeps on popping up as I go about the business of being elected — you guessed it — as the forty-fifth president of the United States of America.”

Wait, it gets worse.

In some cases the digits 4 and 5 are only part of a figure, like the times when one of Cain’s weekly commentaries ran to 645 words or when the final leg of a campaign trip took place on Flight 1045 traveling at 45,000 feet. At times the 45 in question is only tangentially related to Cain, as when he cites a Las Vegas campaign event where he met a couple celebrating their 45th anniversary. And in one case, the key moment ultimately doesn’t have anything to do with 45 at all: at an early strategy meeting, Cain and two aides believed they were seated at table 45 in a restaurant, only to be told that there were only 43 tables total. Regardless, it all adds up to something big for Cain.

Making matters slightly even worse still, Cain isn’t just preoccupied with the “special” significance of random numbers, but also believes he’s confronted with supernatural hints — which only he seems to notice — all the time.

Karl Rove told Fox News this morning that Cain simply isn’t “up to this task” of seeking the presidency. For once, I think Karl might be onto something.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.