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November 03, 2011

State of the Race

I don't usually do follow-up posts to the monthly AOSHQ Straw Polls. The results are mostly self-explanatory and the poll post serves mainly to give us a place where we can hash out big-picture questions about all the candidates at once.

But we've got some serious issues to hash out this month. Newt Gingrich has never scored better in our straw polls than a fraction---a tiny fraction!---of a single percentage point. Until yesterday, that is, when he jumped to almost 19%.

So what's happening? I'll tell you what's happening. The Not-Romney supporters continue to run from candidate to candidate looking for someone they can get behind. They got real excited about Michelle Bachmann for a few weeks when it looked like she wasn't a flake. Then came the Tardasil fiasco. They were super-excited about Rick Perry for a few weeks. Then came his "you don't have a heart" comment. Next it was off to Team Herman Cain, who we now discover has a sexual harassment allegation problem.

Yes, it's a problem. It's going to be a problem for everyone except Mitt Romney right up until Cain drops out of the race. Tell me, I beg you: name one substantive policy issue that got any coverage, whatsover in the GOP candidate race this week. No googling, now. Just spit it out, what's going on this week with Romney, Perry, Gingrich, Bachmann . . . hell, anybody heard from Rick Santorum?

This is great for Romney, since he's the frontrunner. He can mark time until January and no doubt would prefer to. This, of course, is bad news for those of us who would rather he not be the GOP nominee.

Cain's defenders have a curious array of arguments that this whole problem is a "smear," from Ann Coulter's race card to the extremely odd claim that Cain's fumbling should be excused because the NRA accusers have chosen to remain anonymous. I say "extremely odd" because, while the NRA accusers are anonymous to the public, Cain certainly knows who they are, the claims they made, and the contours of the settlements. And he still couldn't muster a response other than his implausible explanations followed by inconsistent clarifications.

That might be my biggest issue. If his latest statement blaming Perry is to be believed, he had years to prepare for this issue, not just the 10 days that Politico gave him. And he still came out fumbling and generally doing everything you do when you think you have something to hide. Maybe it's just me, but I'd think I'd remember a bit of details if I were ever accused of sexual harassment. At a minimum, I would know what the person was claiming against me. You're telling me that Cain has so many confidentiality provisions in claims against him, he can't remember which claim is which?!

The Cain defenders say that this is all a "distraction" and they're absolutely right. It is a distraction from the issues that matter: jobs, the economy, Obamacare, etc. It's a distraction of Cain's own making. Unlike the rest of us, who had no idea this was waiting in the wings, Cain knew about the whole thing. He's not the "victim" of sexual harassment allegations; at this point, he's a "volunteer." Everything about this story was in Cain's power to control and he whiffed. This will continue---drip, drip, drip---for weeks.

And in the meantime, Obama will continue to rack up populist cred by bashing Republicans in Congress. In the meantime, when we could have been gaining ground on Republican issues---cramming them down the throats of the reluctant MSM---we're going to be talking about stupid harassment allegations instead. The Not-Romney people will continue to display their displeasure and we'll be another step closer to the Obama vs. Romney race that we've never wanted.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 07:32 AM

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