Another busy week in presidential politics. Will Mitt Romney make a play as he heads to Iowa? And as Bachmann speaks to evangelicals, can she make the case that she’s a viable candidate?
1. Herman Cain says, “Don’t even go there,” but will anyone listen? My colleague Philip Rucker, in Houston on Saturday, wanted to ask Cain if the former head of the National Restaurant Association could recall any other incidents from the sexual harassment complaints lodged by two women. He also wanted to ask about the second accuser. But Cain cut him off and wrapped up his exchange with reporters with this: “We are getting back on message. End of story. Back on message.”
In a Fox News interview later, Cain said, “I am in it to win it. And far as we’re concerned, these allegations aren’t going anywhere. I mean people might make up some more stuff.”
Even as a new Ipsos/Reuters poll shows a 9 percent dip in Cain’s favorability since the allegations surfaced, his aides insist Cain is on a fundraising tear, hauling in $2 million since the story broke. Haley Barbour suggested that the end of the story won’t come until Cain lays out all of the facts. Cain is scheduled to appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on Monday night.
2. Does Jon Huntsman have a shot? The New York Times says that in 2012 Huntsman has the best chance of winning the popular vote in a general-election contest with President Obama, depending on how bad the economy is. But as it stands right now, if polls and fund-raising numbers are considered, Huntsman has very little shot of actually making it out of the GOP nomination fight.
As Cain’s and Rick Perry’s poll standings show, this race isn’t a contest over the best political resume. It’s in part about personality, passion and people skills, which is why Mitt Romney is eager to shake the wooden label.
Here’s the thing about Huntsman: He has yet to prove that he can give a great speech, deliver a stand-out debate performance, or explain away his role in President Obama’s administration — all of which has little to do with where his party is, but more to do with his political skills. Whatever happens, he will likely maintain his status as the Democrats’ favorite Republican, as he continues to make the case against Mitt Romney almost as well as David Plouffe does.
3. Can “personhood” amendments energize the base? Mississippians will have a chance to weigh in on abortion rights Tuesday with a ballot measure that would imbue a fertilized egg with the same rights as a person and potentially equate the destruction of a fertilized egg with murder.
Similar efforts are underway in Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan, key swing states where the votes of suburban women will be important factors.
The Democratic National Committee has seized on what they see as Mitt Romney’s support of life-at-conception legislation and have called his view radical. Yet personhood amendments on swing-state ballots could do something that Romney can’t seem to do on his own, which is rally the conservative base to the polls. It worked in 2004 with gay marriage amendments in 11 states.
. President Obama addresses the National Women’s Law Center’s Annual Awards dinner on Wednesday. The personhood amendments will likely come up.
4. Will Perry’s loopy side emerge again? More people have watched Perry’s weird, who-are-you-and-what-have-you-done-with-Rick-Perry speech in New Hampshire on YouTube than have watched his campaign ads. (Easy pickings for Saturday Night Live).
Because Cain dominated last week’s news cycle, Perry’s speech didn’t become a full-on Howard Dean meltdown moment, but there’s still time. Perry is known for using bombastic language on the stump and in his releases (Ponzi scheme, taking a wrecking ball to the Washington establishment), but in New Hampshire he seemed more goofy frat-guy prankster.
In the speech, he emerged as the guy who would be fun to have a beer with (his staffers say he was not drunk when he delivered the speech). The crowd certainly liked his performance. But Perry arguably had already met the beer candidate threshold. He has yet to pass the commander-in-chief test.
5. Will a Republican foreign policy doctrine emerge?The focus of this week’s debate in South Carolina, hosted by National Journal and CBS, is national security and foreign policy. But with USC and Clemson scheduled for home games (and it being a Saturday night), the ratings will likely be lower than the 6 million that tuned in for the Fox debate in Orlando, Fla. Still, the debate offers a chance for the GOP field to talk extensively about foreign policy, something that has so far tripped up Cain and Perry.
The debate will also provide a preview of how Republicans plan to run against Obama on an issue where he has racked up a string of successes, most notably killing Osama bin Laden. Republicans were nearly unified in their opposition to withdrawal from Iraq, while Americans across party lines are overwhelmingly supportive. Republicans must now thread the needle between a war-weary public, a cash-strapped government, and the party’s hawkish ideologies. A tall order.
WHERE TO FIND THE CANDIDATES:
Michele Bachmann will address the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. at 10 a.m.
Buddy Roemer speaks at the Oyster River Middle School in Durham, N.H.at 10 a.m.
Mitt Romney will speak to workers at Giese Manufacturing in Dubuque, Iowa at 12:30 p.m. and give a 5:30 p.m. speech to the Iowa American Water Co.
Rick Santorum hosts a town hall meeting with Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC in Rochester, N.H. at 7 p.m.
Rick Perry’s mother says her son is no liar.
Johnny Dupree tries to become Mississippi’s first black governor
Ohio’s union battle, an uphill slog
Wall Street’s doing pretty well
Liberal bias against black conservatives?
WORTH WATCHING:The Huntsman daughters explain their Cain parody ad.