The latest allegation swirling around businessman Herman Cain — that he conducted a 13-year long extramarital affair with a woman named Ginger White — could well amount to a political death blow for his already-reeling presidential campaign. And that’s bad news for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
Meanwhile, a parade of would-be rivals — Donald Trump, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Cain -- have risen rapidly and fallen just as quickly. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich is the latest to try to seize that mantle.
While the vast majority of the media coverage has focused on the ups and downs of the anti-Romney candidates, that glosses over the fact that the former Massachusetts governor hasn’t been able to win over large swaths of conservatives — remaining almost entirely stagnant for months.
Take the CNN poll. In the last four national polls — the first in early September, the last just before Thanksgiving — Romney has won 21 percent, 22 percent, 26 percent and 24 percent.
(Gingrich, by contrast, went from 7 percent to 8 percent to 11 percent to 22 percent in those same surveys.)
What those numbers suggest is that Romney’s best (only?) path to the nomination is if conservatives, who seem to have decided they won’t be with him, fracture among several candidates rather than unify behind a single one.
That reality is true on the national level but equally true in early voting states like Iowa and South Carolina where Romney seems to have a solid 15 to 25 percent but hasn’t moved much beyond that number. A Bloomberg News Iowa survey showed Romney at 18 percent — bunched with Cain, Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
(That’s not true in New Hampshire, where Romney’s geographic proximity and the close attention he has paid to the state make him a clear frontrunner.)
The latest allegations regarding Cain, when coupled with the dead-in-the-water candidacies (at least for the moment) of one-time conservative alternatives Perry and Bachmann, make it increasingly likely that Republicans looking for a Romney alternative will view Gingrich as the only viable option.
That could spell trouble for Romney — particularly in Iowa and South Carolina — as he goes for a quick and decisive victory in the early days of the primary race in hopes of spending his attention and money on President Obama and the general election.
Gingrich targets Romney: Gingrich is starting to go after Romney, saying Monday that he is more conservative than the former Massachusetts governor and suggesting he is also more consistent.
Gingrich said on a South Carolina radio station that he was “a lot more conservative than Mitt Romney.” He also said that “it’s wrong to go around and adopt radically different positions based on your need of any one electorate, because then people have to ask themselves, what will you tell me next time?”
If that’s not talking about Romney, we don’t know what is.
Gingrich is perhaps the only emergent frontrunner who has shown both a willingness and capability to attack Romney. We’ll see how it pans out.
Nelson poll shows him leading: Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) appears to be benefitting from the more than $1 million that the Democratic Party has spent on ads for him this year, according to a new poll conducted for his campaign.
The Hickman Analytics poll shows Nelson leading all three of his most likely GOP opponents. After trailing state Attorney General Jon Bruning and state Treasurer Don Stenberg in a previous poll by his pollster, he now leads Bruning within the margin of error, 47 percent to 45 percent, and he leads Stenberg 49 percent to 43 percent.
Nelson’s personal numbers have also improved, with 54 percent of Nebraskans rating him favorably, compared to 47 percent in February. His net favorable rating has gone from -2 to +14. Bruning’s numbers, meanwhile, have declined, as his campaign has stumbled a bit early on.
The poll is particularly good news for Democratic Party officials who are wooing Nelson away from retirement. In a state like Nebraska, he may be their only hope of holding the seat.
Proposed map in Florida: We have the first proposed redistricting map in Florida, courtesy of the state Senate.
The map creates one new Democratic district — the 27th — in Orange County south of Orlando and a GOP district in northern Florida, between Gainesville and Tallahassee. (The latter district is actually labeled the 6th, but GOP Rep. Cliff Stearns lives in the new 26th and may run there. Both are strong GOP districts.)
Perhaps more interesting, the map dilutes firebrand Rep. Allen West’s (R-Fla.) already-tough south Florida district, moving it from a district where Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) would have won 48 percent in the 2008 presidential race to one in which he would have won 44 percent. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R), Steve Southerland (R) and Tom Rooney (R) also get less safe and could have tough races ahead, but in exchange, Reps. Daniel Webster (R), David Rivera (R) and Sandy Adams (R) get considerably safer.
The Florida map is a tough one for the GOP, given that it already controls 19 of 25 districts and has so many incumbents to shore up. Complicating matters further are the new constitutional amendments passed by voters last year that aim to rein in gerrymandering. Democrats contend this could invalidate a GOP-drawn map that doesn’t create several new Democratic districts.
While this is far from the final product, the first draft is a good indication of where at least some Florida Republicans are hoping to go with the map.
Romney gets the backing of three key Hispanics in South Florida — Diaz Balartand Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and former congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart.
Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-Texas) campaign is encouraging college students to spend “Christmas Vacation with Ron Paul.”
The White House defends its many official trips (on the taxpayer dime) to states that just happen to be important in the presidential race.
The effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker (R) is on pace to get well more than the required signatures.
Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) makes his Senate campaign official.
“Family ties prove thorny for Tierney” — Jenna Russell, Boston Globe
“Texas asks Supreme Court to block federal judges’ redistricting plan” — Robert Barnes, Washington Post
“As White House candidates abandon public funding, Republicans look to end system” — Ben Pershing, Washington Post