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November 08, 2011

Cain To Hold Presser to Address Bialek's Accusations This Afternoon

It'll be interesting to see if Cain talks about specifics or keeps it at the level of general denials that he used for the other claims. As far as the primary election goes, Cain has been well-served by general denials thus far.

To be sure, Cain's response to the original Politico article and the subsequent events was totally unprofessional. It had all the telltales of someone with a credibility problem. His statements were inconsistent, evasive, and vague. His demeanor suggested a problem ("I enjoy flowers like everybody else."). He confirmed the facts of the original Politico article, even as he denied the whole dust-up as a media smear. And he made a solid attempt at destroying Curt Anderson's career in order to point the finger at the Perry campaign, and then was forced to backtrack on his disgraceful slur.

The amazing part is that this horrific fumble worked, at least for some people. Cain supporters rallied and so did many other GOP voters. I'm paraphrasing from Limbaugh's show yesterday, but a caller had this to say about the accusations:

All I know for sure is, the more accusations they throw at Cain, the more I know he's our man.

She went on to say something about being trained not to believe the media. She is, of course, not alone in distrust for the MSM and we've certainly spent enough time documenting the "Make Believe Media" here.

But look how far she went. Limbaugh's caller has a rock-solid conviction that the accusations are false, even though she has very little objective evidence with which to evaluate their accuracy.

It's like this. While we were criticizing Cain for utterly failing at keeping the story from blowing up, Cain was actually muddying the waters. He was making it more difficult for the casual observer to understand what this story was about, right down to the basic facts. Politico and the rest of the legacy media also helped muddy the waters, by printing perhaps a thousand articles about ever teeny facet of the allegations.

So to the casual observer, the person who claims to Pew pollsters to be "reasonably well-informed" about an issue, there is a lot of complexity, a lot of back-and-forth, a lot of "maybe yes, maybe no" to this story. The casual observer also tends to know about a story, but they may not know whether it's accurate or not.

With all of this complexity, evaluating the accuracy of the accusations and Cain's denials, hell, even parsing just which news reports Cain has confirmed (like, e.g., the Politico story) and just which reports Cain has denied, has become very difficult for the casual observer.

When things get so complex, we naturally look for proxies to take the place of an actual evaluation of the evidence. One of the most common proxies is source. The source may tell us whether or not to believe the content.

Here, Cain and Politico made this story very complex. Even here at the HQ, (definitely, better-informed than the casual observer) it's been difficult keeping this whole thing straight in light of all the different accusers, Cain responses, legacy media counter-responses, and Cain sur-responses. It's complicated. It's hard to tell who is giving accurate information. So the casual observer is going to turn to a proxy. And in this case, they turned to source.

For the casual GOP voter, like the lady on the Limbaugh show, it's easy to say: look we know not to trust the media, we've been trained not to trust the media, (and here's the leap) so we choose to believe that Cain must be telling the truth. That's great for Cain in the primary election; those folks circle the wagons. They assume that Cain is credible and that all these folks that the media is propping up can't possibly be credible. After all, everyone knows that the media is out to get Republicans and out to get true conservatives most of all. This explains why Cain's support did not erode much among the GOP primary voters.

Of course, folks not conditioned to reflexively distrust the MFM, like the average swing voter and even many Republicans, are going to run in the other direction. They're going to see Cain as the incredible source, particularly in light of the fumbled response and his obvious self-interest. That leaves the media and the accusers as more credible than Cain's blanket denials. Thus, the swing voter is going to tend to believe the media has been accurate, at least in the absence of any way of actually evaluating the accuracy of the charges.

Cain can change that sentiment among swing voters and the Republicans he hasn't convinced yet by getting specific and by dropping the obfuscation. Assuming that he hasn't actually done anything wrong.

Maybe that's what he'll do this afternoon at the presser. But keep in mind that if he does speak with complete and specific detail, he will make it easier to evaluate the accuracy of the claims. He might want that, if he's been completely honest about never having harassed anybody "period, end of story." On the other hand, if he actually has done something wrong, he'd be better off, at least as far as the primary election goes, keeping things complicated.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 07:37 AM

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