November 3, 2011

The Cain Scrutiny

CainOnOReilly110111His enemies and the media may have made him stronger.

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It’s difficult to know how the story of sexual harassment and possibly other allegations against Republican presidential frontrunner Herman Cain will evolve, let alone turn out. That said, potential parallels to the 1992 Democratic Party primary campaign lead me to believe that whoever is behind this has failed to learn their history, and my come to regret their ignorance.

The hit piece at Politico involving four (!) reporters appears to have been released before it was fully developed and perhaps before the online publication would have preferred to let it go. On Monday, Stephen Engelberg at the leftist investigative journalism outfit ProPublica characterized the piece as nothing more than “a first-rate tip on a story.”

If it really was a case of premature e-publication, here’s a likely reason why: Those intent on stopping Cain believe that doing so has become a now-or-never proposition. That’s because in national polling, Cain is showing genuine signs of separating himself from the rest of the GOP field.

That’s right. While everyone has been focusing on what Cain may or may not have done which offended female employees and associates over a dozen years ago at the National Restaurant Association, new polls from Fox News and Quinnipiac have hit the streets showing Cain with four and seven-point leads, respectively, over Mitt Romney. No remaining contender besides Newt Gingrich gets past single-digits in both polls. What’s more, at Zogby, which for whatever reason is not taken seriously by and is not included in the compilation at Real Clear Politics, Cain has outpolled Romney three straight times by 20 or more points while averaging just over 40%. As I’ve said before, if Zogby’s only half-right, Cain has a double-digit lead. It remains to be seen what will happen in the polls as a result of this week’s developments.

Getting to the lesson of 1992 requires an answer to only one question: What was Bill Clinton’s biggest problem in early January of that year? Answer: Almost nobody knew or cared who he was. Gennifer Flowers changed all that. Even the establishment press at the time didn’t grasp her significance.

Despite stories in the tabloids, a post-Super Bowl 60 Minutes interview with his wife Hillary at his side while he denied any and all wrongdoing to lapdog Steve Kroft in front of 50 million viewers, a day-after press conference by Flowers including taped evidence, and an intense effort by the then-nascent alternative media to promote Flowers’ side of the story, Clinton emerged stronger.

Oops, did I say “despite” those things? I meant to say “because of” those things. In mere days, Clinton went from being a virtual nobody to a big-time somebody, from just another southern governor to the second most-recognized politician in the land behind the incumbent George H.W. Bush.

The press which worked mightily to defend Clinton was utterly clueless concerning what its coverage had done to help the man who would ultimately become known as the ARIPOTUS (The Accused Rapist and Impeached President of the United States). In mid-February, on the Sunday before the New Hampshire primary, the New York Times moaned about the “weak Democratic field.” Bill Clinton was supposedly “in trouble.” No he wasn’t. He was instead mere days away from becoming the “Comeback Kid” for his second-place finish in the Granite State to virtual favorite son Paul Tsongas. From there, he proceeded to leave his primary campaign competition in the dust. Armed with promises to deliver the Democratic Party’s decades-old dream of nationalized health care along with a middle-class tax cut, and greatly assisted by Ross Perot’s third-party run, he defeated the “no new taxes” pledge-breaking Bush in the general election.

Six years later, thanks to Paula Jones’s, uh, sexual harassment lawsuit against the now-sitting president (settled for $850,000, or about 30 years’ salary), we learned that Clinton, with his wife sat at his side making fun of women “standing by their man” no matter what as she stood by her adulterous husband to preserve her personal viability, lied when he told Kroft that he had no sexual relationship with Flowers. In a 1998 deposition, he admitted that it supposedly happened only once. Sure, Bill. Eight years later, his failure to keep either of his two core campaign promises became official when he left office.

Until this week, what has been Herman Cain’s biggest problem? You guessed it: Despite the strong polls, very few people had any idea who the heck he is. Well, that problem’s solved. The vague charges raised at the Politico and the inevitable follow-ons have hit all of the Big Three establishment networks; were placed on Page 1, Column 1 at the Times; and have otherwise dominated the news cycle.

For Cain, the good news that most Americans probably now recognize his name is obviously threatened by why that’s the case. The other obvious bad news is that unlike Clinton, Cain faces an intensely hostile establishment press whose members can’t abide by the idea that a black conservative has a genuine shot at becoming the nation’s CEO. But Cain’s sensible conservative support base is intensely loyal. He has also thus far benefited from intense outrage in the right side of the blogosphere. He also appears to be picking up a great deal of sympathy convertible to potential support from relatively disengaged voters who know how sexual harassment charges have far too often been used as a money-grubbing legal weapon with no legitimate basis, and how the prospect of such charges being raised has exponentially increased paranoia in the American workplace.

His fans also believe that this time, unlike in 1992, and despite initial clumsiness, the Herminator has a couple of other things working in his favor which Bill Clinton never had 20 years ago: the truth, and an interest in communicating it. We’ll see if that is indeed the case, and if it’s enough.

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6 Comments

  1. IMO, Cain should not play the victim but be a survivor by either playing the race card on the MSM itself OR just start pushing the 9-9-9 plan the second after saying “there is no substance to the unfounded accusations … and we need to focus on things that matter like 14 unemployed people who want to work.”

    Cain needs to stop pointing the finger at Perry’s campaign, he is making the same counterproductive mistake as Perry was by attacking Romney. The base has already made a decision on Romney, that’s why he doesn’t get over 25% in the polls. The base has already made the decision on Perry, that’s why he is trailing in the polls. Cain needs to realize at the end of the day, he needs the stalwart supporters of Romney and Perry to win the election, he shouldn’t presume they will automatically vote for him IF he becomes the nominee.

    Comment by dscott — November 3, 2011 @ 3:41 pm

  2. [...] too early to know if my “Cain Scrutiny” theory that “his enemies and the media may have made him stronger” will hold, [...]

    Pingback by BizzyBlog — November 3, 2011 @ 6:22 pm

  3. [...] Tom Blumer: The Cain Scrutiny. “Those intent on stopping Cain believe that doing so has become a now-or-never proposition. [...]

    Pingback by Instapundit » Blog Archive » PROF. JACOBSON: NRA should release everything, or nothing. “As I have said before, all the facts s… — November 4, 2011 @ 10:11 am

  4. I agree that it is now or never for the anti-Cain groups to have to take him down. It has to happen NOW, and that is why the politico.com piece was published now.

    So who drove the story? The Left cannot allow a conservative black to run against Obama; it’s too dangerous. If Cain were to win Iowa, with his strong national following (at this point), he’d be very strong in South Carolina, Nevada, and Florida. He *might* become unstoppable. If his campaign is not stopped now, he becomes quite dangerous to the Left.

    Cain’s GOP competitors have exactly the same motivation. They would prefer he be stopped now, and not have to slug it out with him through the primaries and caucuses. And they see the threat that he has the potential to win it all early.

    Consider these charges as part of the vetting process. You have to be able to survive *anything* the opposition can throw at you. Better for this issue to be hashed out now, than next year. Politics is dirty, and being able to survive a sexual harassment charge, no matter how poorly presented as this one is, is part of surviving in politics. If Cain emerges from this in good shape, then that’s an excellent step along the vetting process for him.

    So, was it the Left/Obama/Obama supporters? Or was it either of the Romney or Perry campaigns? We may never find out.

    I’m a Cain supporter, and I remain very optimistic. I don’t mind if this consumes a few more media cycles! Once the charges’ details emerge – and they will – he will emerge stronger for this, or he won’t. I’m just waiting for the truth and remaining optimistic. At this point, I’ve got no reason to doubt the man.

    Comment by mike devx — November 4, 2011 @ 1:30 pm

  5. #4, by survive you mean a Sarah Palin style process where the candidate is continually hounded.

    Comment by dscott — November 4, 2011 @ 7:44 pm

  6. [...] last Thursday’s “The Cain Scrutiny” column, during my dish on Bill Clinton in 1992 (bold was in original): Despite stories in the tabloids, a [...]

    Pingback by BizzyBlog — November 7, 2011 @ 10:53 am

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