Herman Cain: Is his political career kaput?

Herman Cain is not likely ever to stretch his legs in the Oval Office, except as part of a White House tour group. But that was the case even before Herman Cain became embroiled in allegations of an extramarital affair.

Carolyn Kaster/AP
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 2.
Greg Bluestein/AP
Ginger White poses for a photo near Dunwoody, Ga. on Monday.

Ginger White claims she had a 13-year affair with Herman Cain, and that she’s got records of 61 calls or text messages from his private phone to prove it. Is this the end of the Hermanator’s presidential hopes?

Well, no and yes. No, in the sense that Ms. White’s allegations have yet to be proved, and Mr. Cain denies them. It’s possible there was no affair. Given the extent of the allegations, and the possibility of a paper/e-mail trail of evidence, we may well know the full story soon enough.

But yes, in the sense that Cain’s chances of sitting in the Oval Office as part of anything but a White House tour group are pretty much gone. That’s not due to the most recent charges, per se. His time as flavor of the month had expired prior to Ms. White’s going public.

“Most people no longer care about Cain,” noted conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin Tuesday morning.

Cain himself may realize the damage already inflicted on his campaign – and perhaps his political career overall. On Tuesday morning he reportedly told his senior staff he is reassessing whether to stay in the race. He'll make a decision over the next couple of days, reports the National Review's The Corner blog.

His polls had already fallen sharply in the face of allegations of sexual harassment by other women. He peaked in late October with about 26 percent of the Republican primary electorate, according to the Real Clear Politics rolling average of surveys. Now he’s down to about 15 percent, and Newt Gingrich has taken his position as the chief opponent to Mitt Romney.

Perhaps worse for him, his likeability score is plummeting. His Gallup Positive Intensity Score, created by subtracting the percentage of voters who view him unfavorably from those who view him favorably, has dropped to 14, from an October high of 34. He fell three points last week alone – before the latest allegations became public.

So the Cain train’s in the station. Allegations aside, he was done in by lack of cash in the early stages, and later by bad staff, according to Erick Erickson, editor of the conservative RedState blog.

Mr. Erickson points to the fact that Cain’s lawyer issued a nondenial denial of the Ginger White allegations – a statement that sounded as if it were admitting something had occurred.

“Whether Herman had an affair with this lady or not is largely beside the point at this point,” wrote Erickson on Tuesday.

Who’s unhappy about Cain’s apparent political demise? Other than Cain himself, we mean. Oddly, the person who has the most to lose here might be Mitt Romney.

Yes, Cain was challenging Romney for front-runner status. Yes, Romney’s been running steadily in recent months, the only GOP candidate to do so. But Romney just can’t get up over 30 percent in the polls, because conservatives see him as a once-and-future moderate.

Romney would benefit from a splintered conservative vote. As long as Cain seemed viable, he siphoned votes from other right-side hopefuls such as Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. But now the split scenario seems unlikely to occur. With Cain plummeting, and Mr. Perry earthbound, only Mr. Gingrich remains.

“The latest allegations regarding Cain, when coupled with the dead-in-the-water candidacies (at least for the moment) of Perry and [Minnesota Rep. Michele] Bachmann, make it increasingly likely that Republicans looking for a Romney alternative will view Gingrich as the only viable option,” writes Washington Post political analyst Chris Cillizza on his blog, The Fix.

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