I had several talks with a number of highly regarded political analysts, pollsters, and others this past week. There was a common thread in all the conversations that surprised me. They said this was not a race between Romney vs. Perry or Romney vs. Cain. They said this is a race between Rick Perry and Herman Cain, with Newt Gingrich as a wild card.Now, all this was before the Cain story really got going. That certainly changes things a bit. I think some more settling is going to happen in Mitt Romney's favor and he may finally break through the 25% ceiling in national polls.Herman Cain's attack on Rick Perry is going to turn off people toward Perry. Cain's campaign seems to have decided that if Cain goes down, he's going to take out everybody not named Romney as well.This is an ugly, sordid mess. I'll get into the implications and who could benefit in today's horserace.
Ed Rollins, Bachmann's former campaign manager, says the congresswoman is out of money and out of ideas. I agree. She has not changed her message or rebranded herself. Her time is up.
Herman Cain will not be the nominee now. His campaign has so bungled this disaster I find it hard to see him recovering. If he is somehow able to, he'll be a much stronger nominee.But given his campaign's ridiculous attack on Rick Perry and Mark Block saying definitely the campaign would not support letting the women speak, the campaign has done nothing but let this wound fester. The campaign is going to get gangrene from it.And the women will eventually speak one way or another. When that happens we'll have moved from blame to merit. Cain, already behind with women, is doing himself no favors.
Newt was already going after Herman's 999 plan pretty aggressively. They'll do their Lincoln-Douglas debate in Texas. Everyone will take a second look at Newt. In fact, in my mind Newt Gingrich stands the best chance of benefiting from Herman's implosion.There's a bit of irony here in that the man on his third wife could benefit from the guy who taken out by a sexual harassment scandal, but hey, this is America!The big question though is if Newt has the capital to survive. Money will be a problem.
Ron Paul will not be the nominee.
Herman Cain purposefully decided to engage in a murder-suicide with the Perry campaign. I have no doubt Cain really believes Curt Anderson is to blame, but that doesn't mean Anderson really is to blame.Cain burned up a lot of good will in blaming Perry, but it still hurts Perry. There will now be Cain supporters who, when Cain's campaign collapses, will not go to Perry. They'll go Gingrich or Romney.Is it fatal to Perry? He has too much money, as do the Super PAC's helping him, for it to be fatal. But — and this is a big but — Perry only has a limited window to reassure voters of both his drive and, more importantly, his competence. He'll need to pull off some good debate performances.At this point, we've gone from Perry just not having to lose a debate to Perry really needing a solid debate win, even if graded on a curve.As to the opening statement that this is a Cain v. Perry race, consider that only Cain and Perry right now have the money to compete with Romney. Newt may. He is a wild card right now. But cash on hand goes to Cain and Perry. With Cain going after Perry with this scandal chasing Cain, it hurts them both. If the Perry camp can get their collective mind around what's happening quickly, they can right the ship and gain some momentum headed into tho holidays. But, they're going to have to start spending some big money, which they are already doing.
Contrast Herman Cain's handling of this business with Mitt Romney's. Silence. No reason to do anything when Herman Cain is busy killing himself and taking out Rick Perry with him.75% of the Republican Primary wants someone other than Romney and at this rate Mitt Romney is going to be the nominee. That makes him a weaker general election candidate going into it and combined with all his flip-flops kind of defeats the idea that this is the Republicans' race to lose.Cain cannot now be the nominee. But the genius of Cain staying in the race bleeding from a sexual harassment scandal is that, given the Cain camp's actions, it keeps consolidation from happening behind a strong anti-Romney candidate. The odds of Romney being the nominee grow daily. If, however, this Cain business resolves itself quickly, Romney might see the race consolidate against him.
Santorum will not be the nominee.