The Post reports that Herman Cain is deciding if he should drop out of the primary race. Aside from whether he will, the question of the moment is: Does it matter?
Well, it is an embarrassment for the howling mob on the right (including many blogs and talk-show hosts) who claimed the string of sexual misconduct allegations was a racist plot to get him. Once again, voters can evaluate the credibility of the news outlets they read and hear.
And this probably means Cain’s book sales will tumble, and he’ll have to go through an atonement process, a la Spitzer, Gingrich and Clinton, before he gets a talk show.
But what does mean for Iowa and elsewhere? A Republican state operative figures that “If Cain’s supporters (which I peg at 7-8 percent) stuck by him this long, they won’t have any qualms about [Newt] Gingrich’s past indiscretions.” Well, at least his marital ones. But he also says that “there is not really bad blood between him and [Mitt] Romney so I would ping that as a close second” (in terms of where the Cain voters go).
Romney supporters willing to talk at least on background suggest that either this report doesn’t make all that much difference (since Cain’s support was plummeting anyway) or it may provide a mild boost for Gingrich.
I’ve got another theory: This gives Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and Rick Santorum an opening to restate their case to values voters, making this as much about Cain as it is about Gingrich.
To be more precise, this is not so much “values,” in the sense of position on issues, because Gingrich can argue for traditional family and against abortion with the most fervent social conservatives. It’s actually character that is at issue.
The dictionary definition of character is “the aggregate of features and traits that form the nature of some person.” In short, values are what you say you believe and character is who you are.
Interestingly, another definition of “character” — “qualities of honesty or courage . . . integrity” is also at the core of Cain’s collapse and Gingrich’s greatest failings. So long as the discussion is about the personal qualities of candidates and their innate abilities and judgment, Cain — and Gingrich, too — are in an awkward spot.
Whether he stays or goes, Cain has failed to establish that he has the character, including the knowledge and judgment, to be president. Some voters suspected he was a liar and a cad, while others couldn’t take the ignorance about basic issues. In any event, it’s good to see that voters have better radar than many pundits, and that in the end it’s really hard in a grueling presidential race to conceal who you are.