The scandals swirling around Herman Cain today — that two women accused him of sexual harassment in the ’90s, and his campaign may be in violation of federal campaign and tax laws — will be fatal to his presidential ambitions. It’s over folks.
There were reasons to believe that conservatives would stand behind their man — and if he comes up with a good story, they still might.
1) They liked Cain personally, and more than that they liked the idea of Herman Cain. Here was a successful-in-the-market black entrepreneur who was becoming the favourite of Tea Party Republicans. Cain’s very person seemed to embody the success of a conservative ideology, and at the same time his popularity flattered conservatives. He was a walking refutation of liberal claims that conservative Republicans are racists.
2) Conservatives, whatever they said about Bill Clinton, are primed to believe that many sexual harassment lawsuits are monetary shakedowns by aggrieved employees. All that Cain’s team had to do was say affirmatively that nothing inappropriate happened and imply strongly that these lawsuits were settled for financial and public-relations reasons.
3) It is getting so late in the primary season, it seems like there was no time left to get behind a conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has seen his support base completely erode, and Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Michele Bachmann are in no better position to replace him as the base’s standard-bearer.
And conservatives did line up to defend Cain last night when the story broke. Ann Coulter and Washington Examiner lined up to compare this report to attacks on Clarence Thomas.
But this rally isn’t going to last. Cain was already a long-shot. Campaign donors will not answer calls for a besieged long-shot.
And conservative groups are now waiting for an answer from Cain and his campaign, and they don’t like how long it is taking. By this morning Joseph Lawler of The American Spectator was telling readers that the story is legitimately of public interest. Concerned Women for America, a socially conservative group, was demanding answers as well.
But the whole reaction of the Cain campaign has got to be disconcerting to conservatives hoping to find someone to challenge Barack Obama in a tough 2012 campaign. The Cain campaign has been slow and disorganized in its attempt to quash this scandal, all while it is supposed to have known this story was coming for 10 days. This is not the kind of performance GOP voters are going to demand of their 2012 candidate.
The response of Cain’s people confirmed everyone’s fears that this insurgent candidate has no real organisation, and no ability to rapidly respond to the media, much less drive the narrative of a wild campaign.
But the mere fact of this scandal ruins the romantic image voters were developing of Cain, the non-politician. The Herman Cain brand that people loved was utterly plainspoken and direct. The Herman Cain of today is “sighing” at Politico’s reporters, and refusing to answer questions about this story at AEI. The old Herman Cain was beating Mitt Romney. This new one can’t beat anyone.
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