Herman Cain’s presidential campaign had basically been left for dead when the 2012 Republican presidential candidates took the debate stage in Michigan Wednesday. Sexual harassment accusations had plagued his campaign for nearly two weeks, and his deny-to-the-death strategy was not going as planned.But divine providence stepped in on Cain’s behalf tonight, in the form of Rick Perry. The Texas Governor’s spectacular meltdown on stage at the debate did what many in the media had believed impossible — divert the spotlight away from the Cain affair and on to the embarrassing shortcomings of a lower-tier candidate, as reporters gleefully hopped off the Cain Train to start writing Perry campaign obits.
Even Cain’s reference to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as “Princess Nancy” — a poor choice considering the circumstances — could detract from the morbid fascination with Perry’s epic collapse. By the end of the debate, it was clear that the video of Perry forgetting the name of one of the federal agencies he wants to get rid of — and desperately looking to Ron Paul for help — is going to dominate the news cycle for the next 48 hours or so. That’s just long enough for everyone to forget what Cain may or may not have done at the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.
People were already starting to lose interest in the Cain sexual harassment story, even before tonight’s debate. Republican voters don’t seem too concerned with the allegations — if anything, support for Cain appears to have coalesced around what many conservatives see as a liberal political hit job to destroy Cain’s campaign. The debate audience almost chased CNBC moderator Maria Bartiromo offstage tonight when she so much as mentioned Cain’s character.
For better or worse, Cain now has the opportunity to put the sexual harassment story behind him. But his good fortune can only get him so far — the question remains whether he will have the good sense to move on with his campaign, or fall into the Sarah Palin trap and launch a full-on assault against the “mainstream media.” Given Cain’s track record, his next move is anyone’s guess.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.