Soon, the political world might not have Herman Cain to kick around anymore. Less than 24 hours after the scandal-stained Cain pledged to "stay focused on his campaign," despite potentially damaging allegations that he had engaged in a 13-year extramarital affair, the GOP hopeful is reassessing whether to soldier on. In a conference call Tuesday with his presidential campaign staff (National Review was on the call, and has a transcript on its website), Cain said that the latest allegation "is cause for reassessment… we have to do an assessment as to whether or not this is going to create too much of a cloud in some peoples' minds as to whether or not they should support us going forward." Cain will make an official decision by the end of the week. The affair allegation, of course, is just the latest in a laundry list of accusations of sexual misconduct against Cain, all of which he denies. If Cain drops out, who benefits?
Cain's departure would help Gingrich: Newt has profited the most from Cain's recent decline, and would surely benefit from Cain's exit, says Jim Rutenberg at The New York Times. Cain was the "bright guy" in a race full of gaffe-prone conservatives, and Gingrich can fill that smartest-guy-in-the-room role, too. Newt's campaign has been pushing against the notion that he's merely the latest GOP "flavor-of-the-month," and was wisely "solicitous of Mr. Cain's potentially wayward voters" after news of Cain's affair broke on Monday. If the "Cain Train" derails, many passengers are likely to hop aboard the Gingrich Express.
"Who will benefit if Cain withdraws?
Actually, this would be good news for Romney: If this alleged affair is the reason Cain exits the race, "it could lead to a greater focus on Gingrich's messy personal life," says Phillip Klein at The Washington Examiner. Remember, the former House speaker who's at or near the top of the GOP's 2012 polls has had three marriages and multiple extramarital affairs. If Cain leaves, "expect to hear a lot more about Romney's 42-year marriage to emphasize that this isn't an issue Republicans would have to worry about should he be the nominee."
"Who would benefit if Cain dropped out?"
Huh? This would be terrible for Romney: If Cain drops out, it's not clear who will benefit most, say Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. But it's obvious who will lose: Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor's poll numbers are stagnant at around 20 to 25 percent. He can't win over indecisive conservative voters. His best shot at securing the nomination is if conservatives split their votes among several other candidates, leaving Romney as the de facto victor. If Cain drops out, the field shrinks, and all the non-Romneys — and particularly Newt — get a little stronger.
"Why Mitt Romney needs Herman Cain"