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Why Not Newt?

 

Despite many of my readers accusations, I am not working for, nor have decided to support one Republican primary candidate over another. GOP candidates have been flying at the electorate like rounds in a revolver, hitting their mark, only to bounce off the Kevlar armor of the overly critical voters that await to see whether the next round out of the barrel will be the piercing shot of conservatism they think they  felt under President Ronald Reagan. I admit there is fault in this analogy. What would Mitt Romney be?

The voters have seen so many rising stars: Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and now Herman Cain, all who seemed unable to withstand the increased media scrutiny that is afforded to the frontrunner.

If Herman Cain is reasonably upset at the media’s scrutiny of sexual harassment allegations, most significant of which coming from the tenacious Gloria Allred’s client Sharon Bailek, who provided graphic details of her alleged encounter with Cain 14 years ago – the first one of four accusers to reveal herself to the public – then he greatly underestimates the inhumanity American politics.

So far, the Cain campaign has handled the situation with embarrassing ineptitude, underscoring his self proclamation  that he is not a politician. Even so, he has sounded incredibly similar to a politician in recent weeks in the way he has been dodging pointed questions from the media until yesterday afternoon’s press conference. Is he now realizing why it takes a politician to be good at politics?

Nobody can claim that they know for certain whether the allegations against Cain are true or not, but there isn’t any question that his campaign will not survive this disaster. Some are already beginning to make him a martyr, claiming that this is usually the way that  media treats prominent black conservatives. But when you have paperwork as evidence of payoffs, some accusing and Cain unequivocally denying, doubts will certainly arise.

Most of the public may agree that these allegations could be false or frivolous, but the uncertainty to the details will no doubt drive supporters away, as evidenced by the latest polls showing Cain quickly losing favorability and his lead among the candidates. Voters do not want a bad feeling in their stomach about their candidate. Furthermore, false accusations levied by Cain Chief-of-Staff Mark Block against former staffer Curt Anderson and former POLITICO reporter Josh Kraushaar, are scuttling gains achieved by Cain’s strong denial of even knowing Bailek.

These allegations, are not Cain’s only problem. Last Saturday’s Lincoln-Douglass debate, between Cain and Speaker Newt Gingrich, exposed a much more troubling problem that politicos everywhere would rather focus on: Cain’s lack of  policy knowledge, the kind that politicians, especially Newt Gingrich, are familiar with. It is doubtless that when Cain agreed to debate Gingrich, he did not consider that he was going to be scrutinized as a frontrunner, believing that little attention would be focused on the debate. Otherwise, it shows hubris to think he can face a seasoned professional and academic like Gingrich. Despite the amicable disposition of the event, viewers saw a clear discrepancy between the two candidates. The enthusiasm the audience payed Gingrich’s answers were not matched for Cain. Cain also asked to pass and let Gingrich go first on two questions that were initially addressed to him, prompting some observers to tweet, “Is that allowed in a debate?” Yes, it was in this amicable debate, nevertheless, Cain’s weakness was exposed.

This is not a good sign for his supporters. Cain needs to further refine his knowledge – even though it is much better than when he began – but will be nearly impossible if he has to handle his harassment scandal. How can a poor debater be pitted against an incumbent with Barack Obama’s eloquence?

Voters may now be forced to make a jump to another candidate in this campaign cycle that many have compared to speed dating. Though some blame “liberal media” for fueling allegations against Cain, he is most likely correct about its origin in Rick Perry’s camp. But if Perry’s staff thinks that Cain’s declining poll numbers will mean that voters will come back to Perry, they have made a serious miscalculation. It is never good to have your candidate appear as the one who purposely smeared  another in your own party.

Until now, the electorate has been picking a new candidate every time they fall out of love with a front runner, I do not see why this will be any different this time around, and it seems that Gingrich has positioned himself to be next out of the barrel.

As hard as I try, I see no reason why Gingrich should not be the frontrunner, or the nominee. It seems that many conservatives are asking themselves the same question, and so far there is no outstanding reason why he shouldn’t be.

Bachmann can already be considered gone from contention. Perry has shown himself to be the weakest candidate intellectually, despite having plenty of campaign cash on hand from when he was the frontrunner. Santorum, Paul, and the others stand no real chance of winning a real caucus or primary. If Gingrich continues to rise in the polls and further shows himself to be the smart and mature candidate – keeping himself well above the bickering among other candidates –  he could soon take the lead among the “Not-Romneys.” Just in time, with Iowa coming in January, Gingrich’s timing could not be more perfect. As comfortable as Mitt Romney’s position is in the polls, I can’t help but feel that his inevitability will encourage the always contrarian and traditional conservative Iowans to reject him in favor of someone with more credible conservative bona fides, having exhausted many other candidates, the currently third place Gingrich would not seem like a bad choice. Especially since Gingrich has received overwhelmingly favorable responses at every event he participated in Iowa.

Gingrich’s private life may not be that clean for a traditional presidential candidate – many voters calling him “undisciplined” – his long career in politics may mean that we may already know everything there is to know in order not to have any Cain-like surprises. Dependability seems to be what Republican voters are craving right about now. His supporters can only hope that his early statements on climate change and calling Paul Ryan’s budget plan “conservative social engineering” will not come back to haunt him.

Follow me on Twitter: @dmitriyshapiro

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