Will GOP debate be sidetracked by Herman Cain sexual harassment allegations?
The Republican debate Wednesday is supposed to focus on the economy. It’s likely, though, that Herman Cain's sexual assault allegations will dog him throughout the debate.
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Mr. Gingrich, who has his own history of sexual scandal and infidelities, needs to tread lightly around Cain’s woes.Skip to next paragraph
“He’s not going to be throwing any stones,” says Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in California, noting that in Gingrich’s one-on-one debate with Cain over the weekend Gingrich was friendly and careful.
“For people who remember Newt’s history, it’s extremely ironic that he should be the guy to benefit from somebody else’s scandal,” Professor Pitney adds, though he believes Gingrich is the candidate most likely to do so.
IN PICTURES: The Hermanator Experience
Can Rick Perry reverse his decline?
The Texas governor enjoyed a few weeks of front-runner status when he first announced his candidacy – and then watched his campaign tank.
He still has the organization and the money in place. And Romney has largely treated Mr. Perry as his main rival – despite Perry's single-digit poll numbers and ignoring Cain's surge.
So could Cain’s woes give him another chance?
It’s possible. Though so far all his momentum seems to be going the wrong way, and debates aren’t his strength.
“It’s almost as though the people have made up their minds. They considered Perry, latched onto him for a while, but have sent him packing,” says Mr. Sabato.
In the debate, he needs to try to be clear and forceful without coming across as mean, as he did in his confrontation with Romney in the last debate.
“If he’s slow and careful, that will revive the charge that he’s hesitant,” says Pitney. “If he’s loose and fluid, that will remind people of his recent New Hampshire speech, which is not an image he wants to revive.”
One point of interest in the debate: Will Cain revive his charge that Perry’s camp sabotaged him and leaked the sexual-harassment claims?
How will the candidates address Rust Belt economic concerns?
Despite the enormous focus on the Cain scandal, this is still an economic debate, and the majority of the evening should be spent talking about real policy issues.
With the Michigan backdrop, expect extra attention to be paid to manufacturing and the long-term economic woes of states like Michigan and Ohio.
One question that’s almost sure to come up: the auto industry bailout in 2008, and Romney’s op-ed in the New York Times published shortly before headlined “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”
“It’ll be interesting to see what [Romney] says, and what the other candidates say,” says Bill Ballenger, the editor of Inside Michigan Politics. Romney, he notes, has said that the headline misrepresented his argument, but he needs to speak both to his Michigan audience as well as national conservatives looking for any sign he might be flip-flopping.
As for the other candidates, “they’d love to take advantage of any weakness or misstep he makes, but with the Republican electorate, they’re kind of between a rock and a hard place,” Mr. Ballenger says.
Ballenger hopes that other Rust Belt economic questions will arise, but he worries that even with substantive debating, the attention and post-debate analysis will only focus on Cain.
“All this stuff with Herman Cain has blown everything else off the front page,” he says. “But they can’t sit around and debate that for an hour.”
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