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Herman Cain prepares an escape hatch

at 06:30 AM ET, 12/01/2011

Listen closely to businessman Herman Cain’s public comments — and there have been lots of them — over the past 24 hours, and you hear a candidate seemingly preparing a way out of the presidential race.

That escape hatch? A concern over the toll that the allegations regarding an extramarital affair and multiple episodes of sexual harassment — all of which are false, Cain insists — are taking on his family.

“It is constantly weighing on me and my family — especially my family — because it continues to stir in the news,” acknowledged Cain in an interview Wednesday afternoon with Fox News Channel’s Neil Cavuto. “This is why we are going through the reassessment.”

At another point in the interview, Cain — making liberal use of the third person — said that “if they are going to bring down Herman Cain at a heavy price to my family, I am in the process of reassessing.”

The political reality for Cain is that he has become a sideshow in the Republican presidential race. (Polling conducted before Thanksgiving suggested that Cain remained in third place nationally behind former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former House speaker Newt Gingrich but it’s hard to see how that support sustains, given the avalanche of negative headlines that have enveloped his campaign of late.)

Given that, Cain has two options.

1) Stay in the race and be forced to withstand even more scrutiny and (likely) allegations about his personal conduct, even as his chances of being the nominee trickle toward zero.

2) Find a way to make as graceful an exit as possible and, in so doing, rid himself of all — or at least most — of the questions about the veracity of his many denials.

Cain has said he won’t make a final decision until he meets face to face with his wife on Friday. It’s not hard to imagine Cain coming out soon after that meeting to say he is stepping aside, not because the allegations against him are true, but because the media (always a convenient scapegoat) has made life miserable for his wife by propagating falsehoods.

Taking that route would also likely preserve Cain’s earning power — author, celebrity speaker, talk show host? — in the private sector, a not-insignificant calculation.

Cain has been anything but predictable since his star rose in the national political firmament. So he could decide that — damn the torpedoes! — he is staying in the race after meeting with his wife.

But Cain on Wednesday certainly sounded like a candidate building himself an escape hatch from the contest.

Romney keeps engaging Gingrich: For the second straight day, Romney went after Gingrich in a way he hasn’t done yet this campaign.

On Sean Hannity’s radio show, Romney questioned the former House speaker’s “conservative credentials,” in albeit a little more muted way than he did Tuesday.

“I would take exception with him on his characterization of his conservative credentials relative to mine, or his electability; that’s something which time will tell,” Romney said.

Not exactly overly strong stuff, but still more than Romney had been offering against his other opponents earlier in the campaign.

Meanwhile, Gingrich suggests the race isn’t about Romney and the Romney alternative, but rather Gingrich and the Gingrich alternative. Read into that what you like.

Bloomberg pitches himself: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) has said he won’t be a candidate for president, but he sounds like he’s making the case of one.

“I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army in the world. I have my own state department, much to Foggy Bottom’s annoyance. We have the United Nations in New York, and so we have an entree into the diplomatic world that Washington does not have,” Bloomberg said in a speech, per the New York Observer.

Yes, that could be read as Bloomberg saying he’s happy being mayor, but it’s what he said afterward that piqued the attention of those present.

“Unfortunately, people at the federal level or the state level typically spend their whole lives in politics, and they’ve never been an executive, and it shows,” Mayor Bloomberg said.

Fixbits:

Rick Perry want to banish disagreeable federal workers to “God-awful places.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) tries to reclaim her gaffe crown from Perry.

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) calls on Cain to drop out of the presidential race, saying he’s a distraction. West, like Cain, is a black Republican.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) says she will endorse in the GOP presidential race before the Iowa caucuses Jan. 3.

A Democratic super PAC goes up with more ads bolstering Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). The buy is $72,000.

Nebraska’s other senator, meanwhile, Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) says a tax hike on high-income earners may not be off the table.

As expected, Texas’s attorney general is seeking a stay of a court-drawn congressional redistricting map.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) gets a primary challenger — kind of. Bartlett’s district was dismantled by Democrats, who have a good shot to steal it.

Ohio Republicans might be getting closer to a redistricting plan that can avoid a referendum next year.

Must-reads:

The Huntsman handicap” — Ross Douthat, New York Times

Gingrich campaign, business interests tied together”-- Domenico Montanaro, NBC News

Congressional incumbents start attracting ‘super PACs:’ The Influence Industry” — Dan Eggen, Washington Post

The Up-Close-and-Personal Candidate? A Thing of the Past” — Jeff Zeleny, New York Times

 
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