Jonathan is right that the sexual harassment settlement allegations against Herman Cain may end up winning him sympathy from conservatives, at least initially. But if the Politico story holds up, it could be more than enough to knock him out of his top position. So who would benefit most from a potential Cain downfall?
So far, the momentum has moved from one not-Romney candidate to another: first Bachmann, then Perry, then Cain. This trend could continue, with Cain’s support siphoning away to Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum. Or his supporters could end up running back to Bachmann or Perry.
Obviously, the best outcome for Romney would be if Cain’s backers split themselves evenly between several other candidates.
But whatever happens, one of the instant beneficiaries of the Politico article is Rick Perry. This embarrassing news story about Cain leading him with Texas Republicans will likely end up getting buried by the scandal coverage today:
“Cain got 27 percent to Perry’s 26 percent among Texas registered voters who identify themselves as Republicans. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul was next with 12 percent, followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 9 percent and … Newt Gingrich at 8 percent. … ‘Maybe the most important number is that Cain is up 37 percent to 24 percent among the most conservative voters,’ said Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a UT government professor. ‘Perry wins with every other group.’”
For Cain, on the other hand, this story could not have come at a worse time. He wanted to spend the day talking about the major Des Moines register poll showing him in a statistical dead-heat with Romney in Iowa. Instead, he’ll spend it responding to sexual harassment claims. Worse, he won’t have the opportunity to take his case to a friendly media outlet. Cain has two open press events in Washington, D.C. today, one at the American Enterprise Institute, and another at the National Press Club. There’s no doubt he’ll get pressed on the issue, and he’ll be expected to have a better response than the one his spokesperson has been giving.