Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 10/31/2011

Five questions for the week ahead

1.Will Cain pull a Clarence Thomas? It is hard not to draw parallels between Herman Cain and Justice Clarence Thomas, a hero to the right, who faced allegations of sexual harassment in 1991 in his confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court.

Cain now faces allegations that he sexually harassed at least two women during his tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Association. The similarities between Cain and Thomas are notable--both fall into a relatively small group of black conservatives. Both grew up in segregation-era Georgia and have often framed their political views in racial terms. And in both cases, the allegations surfaced as the men were being vetted for high public office.


Republican Presidential hopeful Herman Cain campaigns in Talladega, Ala., Friday, Oct. 28, 2011. (Dave Martin - AP)

Allegations of misconduct are nothing new to politics; think former Sen. Bob Packwood (D-Ore.), Bill Clinton and ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.).

Cain has said that African-Americans allegiance to the Democratic Party amounts to “brainwashing”...but that “more and more black Americans are thinking for themselves, and that’s a good thing.” He said he “left the Democratic plantation a long time ago,” when faced with criticism about his candidacy from prominent black liberals.

“I’m not the only black person out there that shares these conservative views,” he said on Fox News. “The only tactic they have to try to intimidate me and shut me up is to call me names and this sort of thing. It just simply won’t work. “

Twenty years ago, Thomas hit on a similar theme, saying that charges by Anita Hill and questions about his behavior from Senate Democrats amounted to a “high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves.”

A Cain aide seemed to hint at the similarities to the Thomas episode, saying “Sadly, we’ve seen this movie played out before – a prominent Conservative targeted by liberals simply because they disagree with his politics.”

2. Will Mitt flip? Last week, Mitt Romney had his toughest week yet on the campaign trail, facing charges that he flip flopped on an Ohio union measure, and on climate change.

Of course, in politics everything is in the eye of the beholder, but Romney certainly gave Democrats some fodder last week in their “Which Mitt” campaign. Jon M. Huntsman Jr. called him a “perfectly lubricated weather vane” put together a quick web video called “Backflip.”

3. Will Perry attack Cain? Perry has focused much of his ire on Romney, calling him a “fat cat” and questioning his conservative bonafides. While he has questioned Cain’s 9-9-9 plan, he has seemed to do it with kid gloves--referring to Cain as “brother” even as he said that his plan amounts to a tax hike. But with Cain continuing to rank at or near the top in key polls, Perry may need to act more aggressively.

4.Will the Lincoln-Douglas debates between Cain and Gingrich matter, and will Perry jump in? Perry has complained about the sound-bite nature of the debates so far, saying that the format doesn’t give him enough time to explain his ideas in full. Well, on Saturday, Cain and Newt Gingrich are set to participate in a modified Lincoln-Douglas style debates, and get plenty of time to answer questions fully.

The Houston event could help Gingrich on the comeback trail and give Cain, who has done well in debates, another forum to explain why he should be a front-runner.

5.Will the unemployment rate fall?A Gallup poll suggests that for the first time since March, the unemployment rate, now at 9.1 percent could fall below 9 percent, as retailers ramp up hiring in advance of the holiday season. October numbers are set to be released on Friday morning, just as Obama wraps up a G-20 summit in France.

WHERE TO FIND THE CANDIDATES:

Herman Cain will speak to the American Enterprise Institute at 9 a.m. and then speak at a National Press Club luncheon at 12:30 p.m.

Rick Santorum has seven stops planned for Iowa, including an 8 a.m. meet-and-greet at the Garner Education Center in Garner, an 11 a.m. stop at the Osage Public Library and a 2 p.m. event at Pizza Ranch in Decorah.

Jon Huntsman, Jr. will be in Manchester, New Hampshire, at 3:30 p.m. for a town hall meeting.

WORTH READING:

Politico’s exclusive on the Cain allegations

Rick Perry’s record on crime

Obama’s base, battered by the economy

All eyes on Iowa

Obama takes jobs tour to France

WORTH WATCHING:Clarence Thomas testifies in 1991 about allegations of sexual harassment

By  |  06:00 AM ET, 10/31/2011

 
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