GOP Presidential candidate Herman Cain was emphatic when asked at his Scottsdale, Arizona press conference whether he'd drop out of the race over the lengthening sexual harassment charges against him. "No way" he said. He's right about sexual harassment not being the torpedo that will sink his presidential hopeful ship. But he's wrong about his candidacy's eventual sink.
Sexual harassment is a vile, dirty and disgusting business. But it's also the business more time than not that's earmarked by he said, she said accusations and allegations that are rarely witnessed and verified, has little hard proof, and subject to a wide world of interpretation and innuendo. Scores of prominent men from former President Bill Clinton to Clarence Thomas, as well as legions of noted business leaders, athletes, entertainers, and would be politicians have been slapped with the label of sexual harasser, and had or been threatened with lawsuits, demands for settlements and pay offs. But in most cases, Clinton and Thomas, being prime examples, the sex charges aren't enough to sink their careers.
Cain is fresh proof of that. During the first days of the scandal he bagged more campaign dollars than he had previously and polls showed that his support didn't slip much downward. Cain like the others that have been slapped with the tag of sexual harasser did the predictable. He ducked, dodged, denied, probably lied, and then slandered his growing number of accusers. That got lots of press ink and more shrugs from his most impassioned backers. That confirms why Cain soared to the top and stayed at or near the top of the GOP heap of presidential candidates in the first place.
He has remained there even with the sex scandal dogging his every step for cynical practical and political reasons. He provides feel good relief for Tea Party leaders and followers and ultra-conservatives that have been pounded from pillar to post with the charge that they're racist and hateful baiters of any and every thing black, starting with their favorite target President Obama. The wild eyed backing Cain's gotten from them in straw polls in conservative bastions in the Deep South seemed to refute the notion that they're a cabal of unreconstructed bigots.
He's a businessman, and not a career politician. In this era of rabid public loathing and disgust of politicians, Cain is like the proverbial man on the White Horse who can make everything in the Beltway right by bringing his brand of corporate time clock efficiency to the White House. He brings wit, a crude charm, and most importantly entertainment to what has been a dull, lackluster, and pedestrian field of GOP hacks, retreads, and borderline zanies that have plopped themselves before GOP voters as the men and women who can take out Obama. None of them before Cain dashed onto the scene registered much of a pulse beat among the GOP rank and file.
Cain appeared to be the most effective among the GOP presidential contenders in posing as the ABR (anybody but Romney) alternative. The Iowa poll conducted by the Des Moines Register in which Cain ran neck and neck with him among GOP voters reconfirmed that Romney has what's charitably called "serious vulnerabilities" meaning that ultra conservative don't like him and what they perceive he represents. These are the voters that are most likely to vote in the official Iowa GOP Caucus in January and they said that they were three times more likely to back Cain over Romney.
Cain has one more asset that fascinates a celebrity chit chat and gossip star struck media that guaranteed him a star place on the national media and political gab show circuit. He could spew out a catchy, goofball, sound bite or gaffe. His botching the name Uzbekistan, as Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan , calling for an electrified border fence complete with alligators and moats, branding blacks that back the Democrats as brainwashed, and botching the issue of trading prisoners at Guantanamo for hostages presumably that meant dealing with Al-Qaeda, were laughable. And these amused stumbles and bumbles made political featherweight Sarah Palin look almost like the second coming of FDR and Lincoln in comparison to him. That just made him even more a marketable curiosity item for the media and the much of the public.
GOP mainstream leaders, hard-nosed GOP political operatives, and the big gun financial donors have mostly treated the Cain candidacy as a fun and games, amusing sideshow act that is doomed to fade into the sunset long before it's time for serious primary politicking and voting. The sex charges are just the playful icing on the Cain circus act. It's an act that would fold in due time anyway. Despite Cain's defiant pronouncement that sex won't derail him and he's in the race for the long haul, his drop-out time is close at hand, sexual harassment allegations, or no.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com