As we predicted when the sexual harassment scandal first came to light and his mega-gaffes began to pile up, Herman Cain is quickly losing his spot in the top tier of GOP presidential candidates. He’s third in the latest Fox News national poll, down nine points from last month. In the RealClearPolitics averages he’s also dropped back to third and is now under 20 percent. He’s got a ways to go before he passes Texas Gov. Rick Perry (at 7 percent in the Fox poll and just over 9 percent in RCP) on the way down.
We’ve seen this pattern before. Up in the polls went Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and then down she slid. (She’s at 6 percent in the Fox poll.) Then in stormed Perry, who held the lead until he crashed and burned. There is no sign any of his policy proposals or his ad campaign is helping to revive his standing with Republican voters. Then it was Cain’s turn. One can imagine he’s not hit bottom yet either.
Having been through this so many times, we can predict the next few weeks. There will be more scrutiny in the conservative and mainstream media of Gingrich. He’ll get sharper questions from the moderators and get more barbs from his opponents. There will be testy interviews and clashes with the media. In Gingrich’s case, the incoming fire will come as much from right-wing pundits and activist, who view his past deviations from conservative orthodoxy with suspicion, if not contempt, as from mainstream media outlets.
Many voters now have only a foggy recollection of Gingrich’s past problems. But it’s all out there. The Post, for example, reported in January 1997:
The House voted overwhelmingly yesterday to reprimand House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and order him to pay an unprecedented $300,000 penalty, the first time in the House’s 208-year history it has disciplined a speaker for ethical wrongdoing.
The ethics case and its resolution leave Gingrich with little leeway for future personal controversies, House Republicans said. Exactly one month before yesterday’s vote, Gingrich admitted that he brought discredit to the House and broke its rules by failing to ensure that financing for two projects would not violate federal tax law and by giving the House ethics committee false information.
A regular Charlie Rangel, huh?
Ann Coulter is one of many conservative voices reacting to Gingrich’s rise with a mixture of amazement and disgust. She is out with a new blast: “In addition to having an affair in the middle of Clinton’s impeachment; apologizing to Jesse Jackson on behalf of J.C. Watts — one of two black Republicans then in Congress — for having criticized ‘poverty pimps,’ and then inviting Jackson to a State of the Union address; cutting a global warming commercial with Nancy Pelosi; supporting George Soros’ candidate Dede Scozzafava in a congressional special election; appearing in public with the Rev. Al Sharpton to promote nonspecific education reform; and calling Paul Ryan’s plan to save Social Security ‘right-wing social engineering,’ we found out this week that Gingrich was a recipient of Freddie Mac political money.” Yowser.
The Freddie Mac controversy is so dangerous for Gingrich because it makes clear how richly he benefited from the Freddie-Fannie-lobbyist-Congress racket that ultimately wound up costing the American people dearly. As Right Turn has reported, the scheme was well-known. Katrina Trinko explains how it worked:
Peter Wallison, the Arthur F. Burns Fellow in Financial Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, notes that Gingrich was just one of many, many D.C.ers on the Fannie and Freddie train.
“Both Fannie and Freddie paid a lot of people to maintain their franchise,” Wallison says. “Every lobbyist in town was working for one of the two of them. They had people, very well known people, Nobel laureates and so forth, who wrote papers for them extolling their work in the mortgage world and in the housing world and assuring Congress that they were not any risk to the taxpayers.”
“They spread around a lot of the money that they were making in order to assure themselves they would not going to lose support in Congress for their portfolios principally,” Wallison adds.
For Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in the past decade, a top concern was ensuring that Congress did not start regulating how many mortgages the companies were allowed to hold.
And it worked. Freddie and Fannie lived charmed lives, with minimal scrutiny. Until the whole thing came tumbling down and the American economy experienced a financial meltdown. So much for the image of Gingrich the “historian,” Gingrich the out-of-the-box thinker and Gingrich the great thinker.
Another conservative journalist, Tim Carney, takes a bite out of Gingrich, reporting that it’s not just Freddie and the ethanol industry that paid him handsomely, but the pharmaceutical lobby as well. Carney sums up the Gingrich-aversion among many free-market conservatives:
Speaking of one of his favorite targets, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., Gingrich said, “If Barney wants to retire tomorrow morning and get a really big contract with someone, more power to him. It’s called free enterprise.”
This cavalier attitude toward the monetization of public service will likely irritate conservatives who fume at the cronyism and corporatism of the Obama administration, but they will be more disturbed by Gingrich’s abuse of the phrase “free enterprise.”
In Iowa, Gingrich so far hasn’t put together the organization that is usually required to get caucus participants out to vote. An Iowa Republican insider not supporting any candidate tells me the Freddie story hasn’t yet “set in.” He adds that when it does, “it won't be good” for Gingrich. Craig Robinson of the Iowa Republican thinks the issue becomes potent if other candidates capitalize on it. “It’s a big deal for some conservatives who follow the race closely, maybe not as big of a deal yet for the more casual caucus participants. That would change if a candidate or super PAC would run an ad or frame the argument of why it’s bad. It will be interesting to see if it picks up steam.”
Will Gingrich fall as quickly and as far as the other not-Romney contenders have? Perhaps. But we know it will be tougher sledding for him from here on out. And, much like Perry and Cain, Gingrich, we suspect, will wind up being his own worst enemy.