THE CAIN SCANDAL IS OVER, AND CAIN IS THE NEW DAVID VITTER
(UPDATE: Well, it seems I was wrong -- Cain's numbers are still strong, but Gingrich's are now stronger. But in any case, Romney's inevitability is still not evident.)
Bill Keller in The New York Times today:
Election Day is nearly a year off and the first primaries aren't until January, but I'm ready to skip ahead to the main event. The last serious hope of the Tea Partiers, Rick Perry, and their last not-so-serious hope, Herman Cain, are in campaign death spirals. Unless God has a cruel sense of humor, Newt Gingrich will pass like a tantrum. That leaves us with a general election between two serious and certifiably sane candidates. Phew!!
Um, Bill? Have you seen the new Politico/Battleground poll? In a survey conducted last Sunday through Wednesday, Republicans and Republican leaners were asked to pick a presidential candidate. Number 1? Cain -- still:
Gingrich and Perry: 14% each
Bachmann and Santorum: 2% each
Huntsman: tee-hee (he gets an asterisk)
Oh, and then:
If, for some reason, the candidate that you just mentioned chose not to run, which of the other candidates would be your next choice?
Gingrich and Romney: 20% each
"Gingrich will pass like a tantrum"? A constant tantrum state is what being a Republican these days is all about. What's limiting Gingrich right now is not the evanescence of his support but the persistence of Cain, the other permanent-wingnut-tantrum candidate.
Is another shoe really going to drop in the Cain sex harassment story? If not, it's had its fifteen minutes. It's over. He's suffered all the damage he's going to suffer, and, in fact, he'll probably regain some voters he lost. Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky ended the story's run -- but if it weren't them, it would have been someone else, because that's how media firestorms go.
Cain is David Vitter. He just refused to quit, and now it's all going to be forgotten. (If anything, Cain is going to want to remind his fans of the scandal -- "They tried to destroy me!") Now the only question is whether the lack of organization will prevent Cain (or Gingrich) from being Christine O'Donnell. I know the national primaries aren't like the Delaware primary, but the craziness of the voters is a constant.
Bill Keller's column is about Mitt Romney, and how a general election between Romney and Obama is likely to go. At one point, he writes:
So Democrats will paint Romney as a rubber stamp for Congressional Republicans who want to coddle the rich, fix the economy on the backs of the middle class and seniors, and let Wall Street and the polluters write their own rules. Mindful of the polls showing the popularity of that Congress at about 9 percent, they will try to make Romney and Eric Cantor seem like running mates.
No they won't, for a simple reason: they've never even tried to make Eric Cantor an Antichrist -- Cantor or Boehner or Mitch McConnell or Jim DeMint or, really, even Paul Ryan. Democrats don't do demonization. Maybe they do it at the presidential and vice presidential level (Bush/Cheney, Palin), but demonize congressional leaders the way Republicans demonize Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and Barney Frank (and used to demonize Ted Kennedy)? Heaven forfend! And that's one reason a Republican can win the White House next year -- on a gut level, voters don't think any of the presidential candidates are in the same party as the Republicans they see controlling everything in Congress. So put thoughts of Romney's face morphing into Cantor's in a campaign ad out of your mind -- ain't gonna happen.